Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice any symptoms. COPD can develop for years without visible shortness of breath. The signs that appear in advanced stages include breathlessness, frequent coughing (with and without sputum), wheezing and tightness in the chest.