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6.3% of U.S. Adults Report Having COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a set of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis that limit air flow and cause breathing difficulties. Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 15 million Americans report having a COPD diagnosis and millions more may not even realize they have it.

What Causes COPD?

Tobacco use is the main cause of COPD in the United States, but air pollutants at home (such as secondhand smoke) and at work (such as dusts, gases, and fumes), and genetics can also cause COPD.

Symptoms of COPD

Symptoms of COPD include—

  • Chronic cough (known also as smoker’s cough).
  • Chronic phlegm production.
  • Shortness of breath while doing things you used to be able to do.
  • Not being able to take a deep breath.
  • Wheezing.

COPD in U.S. Adults

In 2011, among 498,225 adults in all states, the District of Columbia (DC), and Puerto Rico, 6.3% reported having been told by a doctor or other health professional that they had COPD, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema. Self-reported physician-diagnosed COPD was most common in southern states. The percentage of adults reporting COPD varied considerably, ranging from less than 4% in Minnesota, Washington, and Puerto Rico to more than 9% in Alabama and Kentucky. The map below displays the prevalence of self-reported COPD diagnosis among U.S. adults by state and territory for 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.

Age-Adjusted* Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Among U.S. Adults—Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States,2011.

Illustrated Map: Age-Adjusted* Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)† Among U.S. Adults—Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States,‡ 2011.

*Age adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population, using five age groups: 18–44 years, 45–54 years, 55–64 years, 65–74 years, and ≥75 years.
†Determined by response to the question,"Has a doctor, nurse, or other health professional ever told you that you have (COPD) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis?"
‡Includes the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Among 13,306 respondents with COPD in 21 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, three-quarters reported that they had been given a diagnostic breathing test, nearly two-thirds felt that shortness of breath impaired their quality of life, and just more than one-half were taking at least one daily medication for their COPD. Two fifths reported visiting a physician for COPD-related symptoms in the previous 12 months, while 1 of 6 had either visited an emergency department or been admitted to a hospital for their COPD in the previous 12 months.

Who Reports a COPD Diagnosis?

The following groups were more likely to report COPD:

  • People aged 65-74 years.
  • Non-Hispanic whites.
  • Women.
  • Individuals who were unemployed, retired, or unable to work.
  • Individuals with less than a high school education.
  • People with lower incomes.
  • Individuals who were divorced, widowed, or separated.
  • Current or former smokers.
  • Those with a history of asthma.

Preventing and Treating COPD

For current smokers, smoking cessation is essential for preventing and managing COPD. Eliminating exposure to tobacco smoke and other environmental pollutants also is important. While there is no cure for COPD, treatment is available to manage the symptoms that are caused by COPD and improve quality of life. Treatment options include medication (such as inhalers), pulmonary rehabilitation, physical activity training, and oxygen treatment.

For more information about COPD and its treatment, please visit our COPD Web site or visit the COPD Learn More Breathe Better® Campaign.

 

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: November 26, 2012
  • Page last updated: November 26, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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