Lung Ailments Often Go Undiagnosed in the US
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is underdiagnosed in the US, chiefly in its milder and more treatable forms, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( news - web sites) (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia reported
COPD includes several diseases that inhibit lung function, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
During 2000, roughly 10 million US adults reported receiving a diagnosis of COPD from their physician. But data from a national survey indicate that roughly 24 million US adults have impaired lung function.
"COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the US," Dr. David Mannino, a pulmonary disease expert with the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, told reporters during a telebriefing.
"We have evidence from national surveys that a substantial 14% of the population has objective evidence of mild-to-moderate COPD, but a relatively small proportion of them, roughly 30%, have actually been diagnosed with COPD," he said.
In 2000, for the first time, the number of women dying of COPD surpassed the number of men, according to the report. The data also show that women visit emergency departments and are hospitalized more often for COPD than are men.
"These data confirm that COPD is now a women's health disease," Mannino said. "The increase in these trends for women probably reflects the increase in smoking among women in the US since the 1940s."
The good news, Mannino said, is that the number of men and women aged 25 to 54 with mild-to-moderate COPD has actually decreased over the past quarter century. "This suggests that the increases that we are currently observing in hospitalizations and deaths may not continue indefinitely. We believe that this observation is a result of the overall decrease in smoking in the US since the 1960s."
Mannino said physicians should consider measuring pulmonary function in current and former smokers aged 45 and older, and also in any patient with respiratory problems. The report on COPD can be found at http://www.cdc.gov.