Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

COPD Health Center

Font Size

More Women Than Men Die From COPD

Researchers Say the Lung Disease Is on the Rise Among Women
WebMD Health News

Dec. 14, 2007 -- The lung disease known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has long been considered more a man's disease than a woman's disease. Nothing is farther from the truth, according to a new review.

"COPD is a huge problem in women," says MeiLan Han, MD, MS, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, and director of its Women's Respiratory Health Clinic. She is the lead author of a clinical commentary on the topic of gender and COPD published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

COPD in women has been on the rise in recent years. More women than men in the U.S. now die from it each year, she says. Even so, experts have much to learn about the gender bias surrounding COPD, she says. Doctors may not always think to give a woman with COPD symptoms the breathing function tests used to help diagnose it early.

What Is COPD?

COPD is the preferred name for what used to be looked on as two different diseases -- emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking cigarettes is the main risk factor for getting the disease. In emphysema, the tiny air sacs in the lung (called alveoli) are irreversibly damaged. In chronic bronchitis, the bronchial tubes are inflamed and eventually scar. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

According to the American Lung Association 61,000 women and 57,260 men died of the disease in 2004; about 12 million adults in the U.S. have COPD. Symptoms include a chronic cough, shortness of breath, frequent clearing of the throat, and increased production of mucus.

Medications can help relax and open air passages. Other treatment includes supplementary oxygen therapy.

COPD: Men vs. Women

Han and her colleagues reviewed numerous scientific published studies to write the commentary, trying to piece together the current understanding of how COPD affects men and women differently -- and what questions yet need to be addressed.

Sex differences in COPD have been suspected for about 20 years, she says, but experts haven't investigated the information very thoroughly until recently. Women's increased use of tobacco probably explains part of the rise in the disease, Han says, but not all.

Today on WebMD

man talking to his doctor
Check your COPD risk.
woman using inhaler
What is the top cause of this condition?
chest x-ray
7 early warning signs.
Senior couple stretching
10 exercises for people With COPD.
Bronchitis Overview
Senior woman blowing dandelion
Living With Copd
human lung graphic
Energy Boosting Foods
red heart and ekg
Living With Copd
Senior couple stretching