How Common Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develops over many years (sometimes 10 to 30 years) and is most
commonly diagnosed in people older than 60. Because of this, COPD generally is
considered a disease of older adults. COPD is sometimes called chronic
obstructive lung disease (COLD) or chronic airflow obstruction (CAO).
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Quiz the average person on the street, and how many could tell you what it is? Would you know that it's the 4th leading cause of death in the United States? Not likely. But that is one of COPD's unfortunate claims to fame.
A serious and progressive lung disease diagnosed in more than 13 million Americans, COPD develops when lungs become damaged from smoking and sometimes from heavy exposure to pollution, chemicals, or dusts. Genes may also play a role in the...
About 10 million people have been diagnosed with
some form of COPD, and as many as 24 million more may be
COPD is the fourth most common cause of death.
COPD is also a major cause of disability and death
worldwide.1 The World Health Organization estimates
that by 2020, COPD will become the third most common cause of death
The disease is more common
Smokers. Most people with COPD have a history of
significant cigarette use.1
Older adults than younger people.
Men and women are affected equally. Some studies suggest that
women are more susceptible than men to the effects of tobacco smoke.3 COPD symptoms develop in at
least 10% to 15% of long-term smokers, and some studies indicate that up to 50%
of long-term smokers older than age 45 develop COPD.4
Senior RM, Silverman EK (2007). Chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 14, chap. 22. New York: WebMD.
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
(2009). In Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online:
Lundbäck B, et al. (2003). Not 15 but 50% of smokers
develop COPD?—Report from the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden
Studies. Respiratory Medicine, 97(2):
Primary Medical Reviewer
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
November 29, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 29, 2011
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