What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a large group of lung diseases characterized by airflow obstruction. COPD is often associated with symptoms related to difficulty in breathing, but can be present without any symptoms. The most important and frequent conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, but COPD also includes other diagnoses.
Prevalence of COPD
Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2011.1 Beginning in 2008, COPD has surpassed stroke as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.3,4 Around 5% of the Vermont population is reported to have COPD. The prevalence of COPD increased significantly across each of the three age groups, 18-44, 45-64 and 65+. This was expected, as the development of COPD is slow and longer risk factor exposures are known to increase the chances of disease development, thus causing it to be primarily a disease of older people.
Causes of COPD
Between 80% and 90% of COPD is due to tobacco use. This is evident when looking at COPD diagnosis by smoking status among Vermont adults. COPD accounts for 1.5 million emergency department visits annually, and the number of visits has been on the rise since the early 1990s.5 Approximately two-thirds of patients in the emergency department with COPD symptoms are consequently admitted as inpatients.2 As of 2009, 11.8 million adults aged 18+ years in the United States reported having physician-diagnosed COPD, however it is commonly accepted that COPD is frequently underdiagnosed.6