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).
In the United States:1
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
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.
Calverley PW (2003). Chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease. Lancet, 362: 1053–1061.
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):
November 29, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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