Many Unaware They Have COPD
2 in 3 With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Don't Know It
WebMD News Archive
April 6, 2010 -- As many as two in three people with known risk factors for
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) don't know that they have the
A new study finds that about one in five heavy smokers over age 40 have
findings of COPD, but only one-third have been previously diagnosed with the
common lung disease.
"Underdiagnosis of COPD was frequent, which suggests a greater need for
screening at-risk individuals," write researcher Kylie Hill, PhD, of the
University of Toronto, and colleagues in the Canadian Medical Association
COPD is a progressive and incurable disease that affects the lungs, making
it more difficult to breathe. Advancing age and being a heavy smoker or having
a history of cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of developing
Recent studies have estimated that about 10% of people worldwide over the
age of 40 are affected by COPD. In this study, researchers looked at the
prevalence of the disease among people with known risk factors.
Researchers screened 1,003 people aged 40 and over who were current or
former heavy smokers who visited a primary care clinic for any reason for signs
of COPD using spirometry testing. Heavy smoking was defined as a smoking
history of 20 pack-years or more. A pack-year is the number of packs smoked per
day multiplied by the number of years smoked.
The results showed that 20.7% of the people screened met the criteria for a
diagnosis of COPD but only 32.7% had previously been diagnosed with the disease
or were aware of their COPD diagnosis.
Researchers say underdiagnosis of COPD has been reported in previous
studies, but the extent of it in this study was especially striking given that
all of the participants had two major risk factors for COPD.
They say early detection of COPD by screening people at risk, such as older
heavy smokers, could offer more effective treatment options and reduce health