Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is and will remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The severity of airflow obstruction is known to relate to overall health status and mortality. However, even allowing for common aetiological factors, a link has been identified between COPD and other systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. COPD is known to be an inflammatory condition and neutrophil elastase has long been considered a significant mediator of the disease. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, in particular TNF-alpha (Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha), may be the driving force behind the disease process. However, the roles of inflammation and these pro-inflammatory cytokines may extend beyond the lungs and play a part in the systemic effects of the disease and associated co-morbidities. This article describes the mechanisms involved and proposes a common inflammatory TNF-alpha phenotype that may, in part, account for the associations.