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Dyspnoea In Copd: The Effect on Functional Ability and Carers
  1. Rebecca Jennings
  1. Rebecca Jennings is Therapies Services Manager, St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, London, and is currently undertaking an MSc in Palliative Care, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, King’s College London. Email: r.jennings{at}


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex, progressive, respiratory condition. The primary symptom of COPD is dyspnoea (the subjective experience of breathing discomfort). Worldwide, COPD is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Due to the progressive nature of COPD, limitation of functional ability increases proportionally to disease severity, becoming more pronounced as patients approach the end of life. The impact of COPD on families/carers is considerable. Despite the fact that carers bear an escalating care burden as the patient approaches the end of life, evidence indicates that people with COPD and their carers currently receive little support from health services, including specialist palliative care. This can have a detrimental effect on patients’ and carers’ quality of life, leading to feelings of isolation as well as depression. This article provides an overview of the main pathophysiological effects of COPD to emphasise the mechanisms that contribute to dyspnoea. It discusses the impact of dyspnoea in COPD on patients’ functional ability and the impact of caring for a loved one with COPD. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Breathlessness
  • Carers
  • Chronic obstructive
  • pulmonary disease
  • Dyspnoea
  • Functional ability

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