An imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants is proposed in the pathogenesis of COPD. Potential alterations responsible for an imbalance in oxidant production and intra- and extracellular antioxidant defense systems are discussed with respect to COPD-related changes in the pulmonary compartment. In line with the current view of COPD as a disease with multiple systemic consequences, there is increasing evidence that imbalances in the redox milieu extend beyond the diseased lung in COPD patients. Skeletal muscle dysfunction is often observed in COPD and may result from imbalances in the redox environment of skeletal muscle. Potential triggers of oxidative stress in the muscle compartment include inflammation and hypoxia, and local sources of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are discussed, as well the mechanisms by which skeletal muscle trophical state, contractility and fatigability may be affected by oxidative stress, resulting in skeletal muscle dysfunction.