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How Serious Is COPD

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death. At this time there is no cure, and the number of people dying from COPD is growing.

COPD in Women

Deaths resulting from COPD in women are higher than in men. There are a few reasons why this happens.

  1. In the late 1960s, the tobacco industry intensely targeted women. This resulted in a huge increase in women smoking. We are still seeing new cases of smoking related diseases, including COPD, as women age.
  2. Women are more vulnerable than men to lung damage from cigarette smoke and other pollutants. Their lungs are smaller and estrogen plays a role in worsening lung disease.
  3. Women are often misdiagnosed. Because COPD has long been thought of as a man’s disease, many doctors still do not expect to see it in women and miss the proper diagnosis.

Learn more about the rise of COPD in women »

Missing the Warning Signs

COPD is often not found until the disease is very advanced because people do not know the early warning signs. Sometimes people think they are short of breath or less able to take part in their normal activities because they are "just getting older."

It Can Be Treated

There's no cure for COPD, but the good news is that it can be found early. Much can be done to treat and help manage the disease. Through medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and social support, many people are able to live with their disease for many years.

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