Nurse.com article shows Increasing Rate of COPD in Women

“Women are 37% more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than men and now account for more than half of all deaths attributed to COPD in the United States, according to a report by the American Lung Association…More than 7 million women in the U.S. have COPD, and millions more have symptoms but have yet to be diagnosed. The number of deaths among women from COPD has more than quadrupled since 1980, and since 2000 the disease has claimed the lives of more women than men in the U.S. each year…Only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans.”

COPD is also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD is a progressive lung disease, with no known cure, that slowly robs its sufferers of the ability to breathe. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD, but there are other important causes such as air pollution. The report identifies a complex interplay of risk-factor exposures, biological susceptibility and sociocultural dynamics working together to increase COPD’s burden on women. Foremost, the rise of COPD in women is closely tied to the success of tobacco industry marketing that targeted women, particularly in the late 1960s. The tobacco industry’s success in addicting women smokers decades ago is still resulting in new cases of COPD and other tobacco-related illness in those women as they have aged.  The report also offers steps that government agencies, the research community, health systems and many others can take now to address this deadly disease.”

According to the National Institutes of Health  (NIH):  “At first, COPD may cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms. As the disease gets worse, symptoms usually become more severe” including:

  • An ongoing cough or a cough that produces a lot of mucus (often called “smoker’s cough”)
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe)
  • Chest tightness

The NIH further states that “If your symptoms are mild, you may not notice them, or you may adjust your lifestyle to make breathing easier. For example, you may take the elevator instead of the stairs.  Over time, symptoms may become severe enough to see a doctor. For example, you may get short of breath during physical exertion.  The severity of your symptoms will depend on how much lung damage you have.”

Other symptoms can occur as the disease progresses “such as swelling in your ankles, feet, or legs; weight loss; and lower muscle endurance.  Some severe symptoms may require treatment in a hospital. You—with the help of family members or friends, if you’re unable—should seek emergency care if:

  • You’re having a hard time catching your breath or talking.
  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue or gray. (This is a sign of a low oxygen level in your blood.)
  • You’re not mentally alert.
  • Your heartbeat is very fast.
  • The recommended treatment for symptoms that are getting worse isn’t working.”

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