Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These are characterized by the obstruction of airflow that interferes with normal breathing. Since these conditions frequently co-exist, physicians prefer the term COPD. COPD does not include other obstructive diseases such as asthma.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in America, claiming the lives of more than 120,000 Americans each year. The number of women dying from the disease has surpassed the number of men dying from the disease.

Smoking is the primary risk factor for COPD. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking. Female smokers are nearly 13 times more likely to die from COPD as women who have never smoked. Male smokers are nearly 12 times more likely to die from COPD as men who have never smoked.

Other risk factors of COPD include air pollution, second-hand smoke, history of childhood respiratory infections and heredity. Occupational exposure to certain industrial pollutants also increases the odds for COPD. A recent study found that the fraction of COPD attributed to work was estimated as 19.2 percent overall and 31.1 percent among never smokers.

There is no cure for COPD.

Learn more about COPD