Kentucky Department For Public Health Contact Us

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

​​​​​​Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)​​ is a group of respiratory diseases that cause breathing issues related to airflow blockage. COPD includes two diseases, emphysema and chronic (long-term) bronchitis. 

Why is this important?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), COPD affects more than 15 million adults in the United States, with women comprising over half of the affected individuals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Environmental Public Health Tracking Program reports for the year 2019 in the state of Kentucky indicate 44,636 emergency department visits, 12,480 hospitalizations, and 3,472 deaths from COPD.  COPD is progressive, meaning that the conditions worsen over time. Although treatments are available to lessen symptoms, COPD cannot be cured, but it can be prevented. 

What is known?​

  • According to NIH, the following factors raise the risk of COPD:

    Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of COPD in the United States. Other risk factors include:

    • Air pollutants (chemical fumes, dust from the environment or workplace, smoke from fuel burning and cooking, secondhand smoke)
    • Changes to lung growth and development in children
    • Chronic conditions/infections such as HIV or tuberculosis
    • A genetic condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency
    • Asthma

Who is at risk?​

According to CDC, NIH, and the World Health Organization (WHO), the following factors increase the risk of developing COPD:

Behavior: Smoking is the main risk factor for COPD.

Gender: Women are more likely to develop COPD than men.

Age: People aged 65 to 74 years, as well as people 75 and older

Race: American Indians/Alaskan natives and multi-racial non-Hispanics

Education: People with less than a high school education

Reduce your risk:

Although COPD has no cure, it can be prevented. According to NIH, the best method of prevention for COPD is to quit smoking (or do not begin smoking). Avoiding additional lung irritants such as air pollutants, dust, chemicals, and secondhand smoke is also vital in preventing COPD.

Once you are diagnosed with COPD, your provider will advise you on how to manage it. If you are an active smoker, you will be advised to quit smoking. Symptoms such as coughing, or wheezing can be treated with medication. Pulmonary rehabilitation and supplemental oxygen may be provided depending on the progression of the disease and severity of symptoms.

Environmental factors ​such as air pollutants, dust, chemical fumes, and secondhand smoke may worsen symptoms of COPD. Lung infection may also worsen symptoms. Monitoring and avoiding these factors can help prevent the worsening of symptoms.

Lifestyle changes and treatments can help you manage your symptoms and slow progress of COPD. If your symptoms are worsening, c​ontact your doctor. Your doctor can change or adjust your treatments to help relieve or lessen symptoms.​