Worldwide, up to 10 percent of adults aged 40 and older have lung impairment consistent with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, according to US researchers who analyzed published studied to quantify the global burden of COPD.
COPD, a progressive lung illness that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. In addition to generating high healthcare costs, COPD is a leading cause of death and disability in developed countries.
Smoking is a key cause of COPD. According to the World Health Organization, 75 percent of deaths from COPD that occur in developed countries are directly related to smoking tobacco.
To gauge the global burden of COPD, Dr. Ron Halbert from the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles and colleagues identified more than 60 studies from 28 countries on COPD.
Pooled results from 37 studies that used spirometry to measure COPD, the gold standard, put the prevalence of COPD at roughly 9 to 10 percent. “This is consistent with the range of 4 to 10 percent cited in a previous qualitative review,” the team notes in the European Respiratory Journal.
As expected, COPD was more common in smokers, males, older adults, and persons living in urban areas.
“Unlike many leading causes of death and disability, COPD is projected to increase in much of the world as smoking frequencies rise and the population ages,” warn Halbert and colleagues.
SOURCE: European Respiratory Journal, September 2006.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.