Conditions InDepth: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to two lung diseases that are closely related: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although these diseases often occur together, you may have symptoms more characteristic of one than the other. In both conditions, airflow out of the lungs is restricted, making breathing very difficult.
Up to 90% of COPD cases are caused by smoking, and smokers are 10 times more likely to die from the disease. Frequent lung infections and exposure to certain industrial chemicals can also cause COPD and some cases are related to genetic abnormalities. Approximately 16 million Americans been diagnosed with COPD. It is estimated that at least 12 million other Americans have the disease but have not been diagnosed. COPD causes about 120,000 deaths per year. It is currently the fourth leading cause of death in Americans, although it is predicted to rise to become the third leading cause by 2020. Although the changes in lung tissue differ between the two diseases, the causes and treatments are similar.
American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=22542 .
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .
Last reviewed June 2008 by
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