An estimated 24 million people in the U.S. have this serious lung disease
COPD, sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a serious lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The airways in people with COPD are partially blocked, making it difficult to get air in and out. Air sacs in the lungs may also lose their elasticity.
Here are other facts about this breathing disorder:
An estimated 24 million people have COPD, but only about half that number have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more than 130,000 Americans a year, about one death every four minutes.
Women are more susceptible to COPD than men. Recent research has found that 66 percent of COPD patients are women. Women also have more symptoms—shortness of breath, constant coughing and wheezing—than men.
Smoking is the primary cause of COPD, but 25 percent of sufferers have never smoked. Environmental factors—long-term exposure to chemicals at work, air pollution and secondhand smoke—and genetic conditions can also cause the disease.
The flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD, so they should get a flu shot every year. They should also talk to their doctors about the pneumonia vaccine.
The top barriers to a COPD diagnosis include not reporting symptoms, not admitting smoking history and other, more immediate health problems.