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Definition of COLD (chronic obstructive lung disease)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

COLD (chronic obstructive lung disease): Any disorder that persistently obstructs bronchial airflow. COLD mainly involves two related diseases -- chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Both bronchitis and emphysema cause chronic obstruction of air flowing through the airways of the lungs. The obstruction is generally permanent and progresses (becomes worse) over time.

By contrast, in asthma there is also obstruction of airflow out of the lungs, but the obstruction is usually reversible and between attacks of asthma the flow of air through the airways is usually good.

COLD is also called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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