Obstructive Lung Diseases | American Lung Association

Obstructive Lung Diseases

Asthma, Allergy, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia and COPD

Asthma, allergy and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are all obstructive lung diseases, characterized by inflamed and easily collapsible airways, obstruction to airflow in and out of the lungs, and frequent doctor visits and hospitalizations. It is estimated that 32 million Americans have obstructive lung disease, with asthma and COPD being most common.

Asthma is a chronic but reversible disease that affects 25 million Americans, including 6.2 million children under the age of 18. Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed.

COPD is not reversible and gets progressively worse over time. COPD, consisting of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing 143,000 per year. In 2014, an estimated 10.9 million adults had COPD, but lung function tests suggest millions more may be undiagnosed. Although the major risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking, there are other important risk factors such as air pollution and genetics.

Awards & Grants

This year the American Lung Association has a diverse portfolio of grants related to asthma, COPD and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Researchers are studying ways to reduce mucus production in both asthma and COPD. They are investigating how genes influence the development of cigarette smoke-induced COPD and how cigarette smoke leads to lung damage in emphysema. One study is looking at the role of excessively multiplying cells in pulmonary hypertension, a common complication of COPD. Another is examining lung stem cells that repair air sacs, which could lead to new treatment for emphysema. We are also funding a study looking at ways to increase adherence to supplemental oxygen therapy in people with COPD.

We are supporting several studies focused on the relationship between influenza and asthma. While asthma was the most common chronic condition among adults hospitalized during the 2009 influenza pandemic, asthmatic patients hospitalized with flu were half as likely to die or require intensive care compared to people without asthma. Findings from this research may lead to new influenza treatments.

Another researcher is exploring ways to block the development of cells involved in steroidresistant asthma. Other areas of research include the regulation of lung inflammation in asthma; the immune system’s role in asthma; genes important in controlling the immune system’s response in allergic asthma; and the effect of mold in the lungs on severe asthma. All of these studies could lead to improved therapy for people with asthma.


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