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Overview of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a variety of chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which cause blockage of airway passages and breathing-related problems. COPD is a major cause of disability, and was the fourth leading cause of mortality in the United States in 2016. Approximately 16 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COPD and millions more suffer from the disease but have not been diagnosed.

In most cases, COPD is preventable. Approximately 80% of COPD cases are caused by smoking. While smoking is the leading cause of COPD deaths, it is not the only risk factor for COPD. Risk factors may include:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to lung irritants, including secondhand smoke
  • Genetics
  • History of asthma
  • Advanced age
  • Poverty
  • Abnormal development of lungs during childhood
  • History of severe childhood respiratory infection
  • Chronic bronchitis

Resources to Learn More

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
Provides information about COPD including data and statistics, publications of research, state specific fact sheets, and guidelines and reports for clinicians.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COPD Across America: How Does Your State Compare?
An interactive U.S. map providing fact sheets with data and statistics demonstrating the burden of COPD in each state.
Organization(s): COPD Foundation