Millions of Americans Could Be Unknowingly Living with COPD; Know 5 Common Early Warning Signs

American Lung Association launches campaign to educate the public on the early warning signs of COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States. More than 12.5 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease without even knowing it. Since early diagnosis is key to earlier treatment, the American Lung Association has launched a campaign to educate Americans about the early warning signs of the disease. 

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. There is currently no cure for COPD, but the disease is treatable. Anyone can develop COPD, but people aged 40 or older and people who smoke or used to smoke have a higher risk of developing the disease. Secondhand smoke, air pollution, workplace exposures to dust, fumes and chemicals, and a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) are also causes and risk factors for COPD. 

“For people with COPD, early screening and diagnosis mean treatment can begin sooner, which may prevent further damage to their lungs,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Unfortunately, many people don't recognize COPD symptoms until later stages of the disease. They often think their symptoms may be a sign of aging, or because they smoke or used to smoke, or because they are out of shape.”

Not everyone has the same COPD symptoms, but five common early warning signs of COPD are:
  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Cough which may bring up sputum (mucus or phlegm)
  3. Chest tightness
  4. Fatigue 
  5. Reoccurring lung infections.
In addition, women are often misdiagnosed because COPD has been historically thought of as a “man’s disease” or an “old person’s disease.” However, more women are diagnosed with COPD, and the COPD death rate is higher in women. In addition, women tend to develop COPD between ages of 45 to 64, which is younger than when men are typically diagnosed.  

The American Lung Association, funded with support by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched a new campaign to educate people about the early warning signs of COPD and encourages everyone to talk to their healthcare provider about risk factors and any symptoms they may be experiencing. Learn more at
For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | Apr 17, 2024
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | May 07, 2024