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Facts and Statistics of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that is characterized by a persistent reduction of airflow. The symptoms of COPD are progressively worsening and persistent breathlessness on exertion, eventually leading to breathlessness at rest. It tends to be under­diagnosed and can be life­threatening. The more familiar terms “chronic bronchitis” and “emphysema” have often been used as labels for the condition.

Key Facts about COPD
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive life­threatening lung disease that causes breathlessness initially with exertion and predisposes to exacerbations and serious illness.
  • The Global Burden of Disease Study reports a prevalence of 251 million cases of COPD globally in 2016.
  • Globally, it is estimated that 3.17 million deaths were caused by the disease in 2015 that is, 5% of all deaths globally in that year.
  • More than 90% of COPD deaths occur in low­ and middle­income countries.
  • The primary cause of COPD is exposure to tobacco smoke either active smoking or second­hand smoke.
  • Other risk factors include exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution and occupational dust and fumes.
  • Exposure to indoor air pollution can affect the unborn child and represent a risk factor for developing COPD later in life.
  • Some cases of COPD are due to long-term asthma.
  • COPD is likely to increase in coming years due to higher smoking prevalence and aging populations in many countries.
  • Many cases of COPD are preventable by avoidance or early cessation of smoking. Hence, it is important that countries adopt the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and implement the MPOWER package of measures so that non-smoking becomes the norm globally.
  • COPD is not curable, but treatment can relieve symptoms, improve quality of life and reduce the risk of death.
How common is COPD?
COPD affects an estimated 30 million individuals in the U.S. and our community stretches across all 50 states, and over half of them have symptoms and do not know it. Early screening can identify COPD before the major loss of lung function occurs.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that 12 million adults have COPD and another 12 million are undiagnosed or developing COPD.

The World Health Organization estimated 210 million individuals worldwide have COPD and total deaths are expected to increase by more than 30% in the next ten years.

COPD Statistics
Let's take a look at some of the statistics associated with this common group of diseases.
  • In 2012, approximately 3 million people lost their lives to COPD around the world. That number represents 6% of all deaths globally for that year.
  • COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S, beaten only by cancer and heart disease. Globally, it is the 5th leading cause of death.
  • Estimates are that by the year 2030, COPD will rise to the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide unless urgent action isn't taken to reduce tobacco use.
  • Upwards of 24 million people suffer from some form of COPD currently in America, but only about half that number have been diagnosed. Many people with breathing problems don't realize they are the result of COPD.
  • Approximately 65 million people worldwide have moderate to severe COPD, according to the World Health Organization.
  • COPD is more common in American women 6.7% than men 5.2% today.
  • Female smokers are 13 times more likely to die of COPD than women who have never smoked. For men, the risk is 12 times that of their non-smoking male counterparts.
  • Women are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis at approximately twice the rate of men. In 2011, 6.8 million women had chronic bronchitis compared to 3.3 million men in the same time period.
  • Emphysema used to primarily affect men, but not any longer. Women outrank men here as well currently, with 2.6 million cases of emphysema reported in 2011, compared to 2.1 million for men.
  • Emphysema is usually slow to develop. Of the 4.7 million cases ever reported, more than 90% of them were in people who were 45 years or older.
  • In the United States, one in five hospitalizations of people over the age of 40 is due to COPD. 
  • Over 800,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S. are related to COPD.
  • Both Alabama and Kentucky have COPD prevalence rates that are over 9%.
  • It is estimated that 90% of people with COPD are current or former smokers.
The most common symptoms of COPD are feelings of breathlessness like you cannot get enough air, a chronic cough, and abnormal sputum/mucus in the airways. If you are concerned that you might have COPD, please see your doctor right away.

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