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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common respiratory conditions of adults and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.  It is estimated that 24 million Americans are affected by COPD.  Additionally, 119,000 deaths, 726,000 hospitalizations, and 1.5 million hospital emergency department visits were caused by COPD in 2000. 

In Kentucky, COPD is also the fourth leading cause of death.  Among African Americans, COPD is among the top 10 causes of death and accounts for more than 3 percent of all deaths in African-Americans.

COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis (which often coexist) and sometimes asthma.  These diseases can block the airway and cause breathing-related problems.  Tobacco use is a major cause of the development and progression of COPD, but asthma, exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors and respiratory infections also contribute to the development of COPD.

Symptoms of COPD are a cough that produces phlegm or mucus and shortness of breath during strenuous activities, such as brisk walking or walking up stairs.  The shortness of breath will get worse during every day activities and walking short distances as COPD progresses.

While there is no cure for COPD, early detection is important to improve treatment and the outcomes associated with the disease.  A test is used to measure lung function and diagnose COPD, but the best ways to improve and avoid COPD are to avoid tobacco use; minimize exposure to home, workplace and air pollution; and avoid respiratory infections.  These steps will result in better quality of life, fewer visits to the emergency room and fewer hospitalizations.

For more information visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

Environmental Protection Agency: Age Healthier Breathe Easier


Last Updated 11/16/2016