Women are at higher risk of developing COPD than men are in the United States, according to the COPD Foundation’s illustration published in November. The Foudation, which encourages research into the debilitating disease and promotes awareness, highlighted the gender-related differences on International Women’s Day.
An early study of COPD patients for gender-related clinical differences showed that women appeared to develop the chronic condition at younger ages, had more exacerbations, and experienced more dyspnea than men. The Spanish-led study was published in the journal Chest in 2005.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2010 affirms the earlier findings and called for more studies:
Female gender was associated with lung function reduction and more severe disease in subjects with COPD with early onset of disease or low smoking exposure. The findings may suggest a gender difference in susceptibility to the lung-damaging effects of cigarette smoking, but alternative explanations should be considered.
In the U.S., women were more likely than men to report having COPD (6.7% vs. 5.2%), according to a survey conducted by a division of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of the disease decreased with higher education and/or income.
Internationally prevalence of COPD among women has increased to a point where the disease affects men and women almost equally, says the World Health Organization. At least one reason for the increase, the group says, is an increase of tobacco use among women in wealthier countries.
If you think you’re at risk of developing COPD, visit the COPD Foundation for tips and more information. Also ask your physician for spirometry, a simple pulmonary function test designed to identify and/or asses asthma, COPD and other lung-related conditions.