How common is COPD?

It has been estimated from U.S. surveys that more than 20 million adults have COPD and about half of these individuals are undiagnosed. Among those diagnosed, many are undertreated. Research has shown that there are many treatments that can be offered to COPD patients.

Can women get COPD as easily as men?

Yes. A generation ago many more men had the disease than women. However with the increase in cigarette smoking among women toward the end of the 20th century, more women in the U.S. have COPD today than men.

How do I know if I have COPD?

Half of COPD patients have not been diagnosed by their physician. Since almost all patients with COPD are cigarette smokers, if you are a current or past cigarette smoker you are in a high-risk group. Shortness of breath on exertion is the most common symptom in people with COPD. When this symptom occurs, many patients stop doing the activity that causes them distress, and therefore may never get shortness of breath because of lack of activity. So ask yourself: Are there any activities that I could do last year that I am having trouble doing this year? If so, you may have COPD or another medical problem.

Also, many patients with COPD have a chronic daily cough and bring up phlegm from their chest. This may be an early sign of COPD. Lastly if you suffer one or more “chest colds” or “attacks of bronchitis,” and the cough lasts for more than just a few days, underlying COPD may be the cause.

If I stop smoking will this disease go away?

If one stops smoking (even at an older age) COPD will progress more slowly and the decline in lung function will slow down. Lung symptoms will improve. Unfortunately, once the damage to the lungs is present, COPD cannot be reversed, even with medication.