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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow restriction and breathing-related problems. The most common conditions include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD can affect the airways and lungs and can cause symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue or inability to exercise, and tightness in the chest. COPD is among the nation’s most common and costly chronic conditions. COPD and asthma have similar symptoms; your health care provider can provide an evaluation, accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

In the United States, tobacco smoke is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD. Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role. People should try to avoid inhaling tobacco smoke, home and workplace air pollutants, and respiratory infections to prevent developing COPD. Early detection of COPD may change its course and progress.

Who is at risk?

Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2014. Almost 15.7 million Americans (6.4%) reported that they have been diagnosed with COPD. More than 50% of adults with low pulmonary function were not aware that they had COPD, so the actual number may be higher. In 2017, 5.2% of adults in Oregon reported having a diagnosis of COPD.

The following groups were more likely to report COPD in 2013:

  • People aged 65 to 74 years and 75 years
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives and multiracial non-Hispanics
  • Women
  • People who were unemployed, retired, or unable to work
  • People with less than a high school education
  • People who were divorced, widowed, or separated
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a history of asthma

How to reduce risk

Treatment of COPD requires a careful and thorough evaluation by a physician. COPD treatment can alleviate symptoms, decrease the frequency and severity of exacerbations, and increase exercise tolerance. Treatment options that your physician may consider include:

  • If you smoke, quit. For help quitting, see Oregon Tobacco Quit Line.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke and other air pollutants at home and at work.
  • Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a personalized treatment program that teaches COPD management strategies to improve quality of life. Programs may include plans that teach people how to breathe better and conserve their energy, as well as provide advice on food and exercise.
  • Take medication. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication.
  • Get flu and pneumonia vaccinations. People with COPD are susceptible to lung infections, which can cause serious problems. Certain vaccines, such as flu and pneumococcal vaccines, are especially important for people with COPD.
  • Use supplemental oxygen. Some people may need to use a portable oxygen tank if their blood oxygen levels are low.

About the measures

The Tracking Network provides data about health effects due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). These data can be used to assess the burden of COPD, monitor trends over time, identify high-risk groups, and enhance prevention, education, and evaluation efforts.

COPD measures are the annual number of hospitalizations, crude rate and age-adjusted rate. This indicator uses data collected by hospitals and estimates the number and rate of people who were admitted to the hospital due to COPD. It can be used to identify trends and patterns in COPD hospitalizations across time and space. This data may be compared with other risk factors, such as air pollution, to identify at-risk populations and environmental relationships. Advanced options include age group.

Understanding that the data have limitations is important. These data come from hospital records, but individuals may have COPD exacerbations due to exposure to an environmental risk factor that do not result in a hospital visit which are not reflected in this data.

Related Indicators

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