Good Health: Growing number of women being diagnosed with COPD

Millions more haven’t been diagnosed yet

DETROIT – A growing number of women are being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a progressive lung disease.

More than 7 million women in the U.S. have COPD, and millions more have symptoms but haven’t been diagnosed yet.

Sandra Morris was a smoker when she was diagnosed with COPD 14 years ago. When she gets sick, her symptoms get worse.

“I’m more afraid of going out in cold season, flu season," she said. “I constantly use sanitizer, but other than that I’m not letting it beat me.”

Statistics show the number of deaths among women from COPD has increased four-fold over the last three decades. Doctor Michael Lansing, a pulmonary specialist, said there are several reasons behind the rise in women being diagnosed.

“Advertising hit women, so in the ’70s and ’80s they started smoking and now we’re seeing that consequence now, so that’s probably one thing,” Lansing said. “In the past it was perceived as just being a male disease, and women were under-diagnosed, so now they’re being diagnosed so the numbers are going up because of that.”

Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Women tend to have more frequent flareups of the disease. There is no cure for COPD -- the goal is to keep the disease from progressing.

Smoking is the leading cause, but exposure to toxic chemicals, secondhand smoke and pollution are believed to play a role too.

About the Authors: