COPD Now Affects Women More, Differently

COPD Now Affects Women More, Differently

By COPD Connect StaffA Published at Last Friday Views 2,067 Likes 1

Despite stereotypes to the contrary, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is increasingly becoming a women’s disease, giving rise to new research and perhaps even changes in treatment.

COPD has historically been thought of as a disease of white male smokers. But this perception is wrong. Since the year 2000, more women than men have died from COPD – a trend that has continued to continue and grow in years since.

A recent data report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed that, for each three-year period from 1998 through 2009, women had higher COPD prevalence than men. Over the study’s last two years, 6.1 percent of women (7.4 million) had COPD compared with 4.1 percent of men (4.4 million). COPD prevalence was greater among women than men in all age groups except the two oldest, where they were nearly equal.

The CDC also reported that while COPD hospitalization rates declined for both men and women over the decade studied, COPD death rates declined only for men. Increased death rates among women are believed to reflect women’s increased smoking beginning in the 1940s, the CDC said.

All the data shows a continuing shift in the relative burden of COPD to women – a change that in recent years has given researchers some cause to study the disease’s possible gender differences.

One study, published in 2007 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found symptoms differed between women and men.

Despite having less severe emphysema than men, the women studied had more airway problems. This means women experience greater shortness of breath and less ability to exercise compared to their male counterparts. The women also reported more depression and poorer overall quality of life. Other studies showed women were likely to experience more frequent COPD exacerbations than men.

Finally, two studies have shown doctors are less likely to give women spirometry tests or refer them to a specialist, and are more likely to give a COPD diagnosis to a male patient than a female, despite similar symptoms.

Researchers say these findings and demographic rates are a call to shift the view of COPD as a “man’s disease.” Also, if these sorts of findings are applicable to a broader population, they could have important implications for the treatment of COPD. Like with heart disease, management might need to be shifted based on gender.

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