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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the impact of gender

Raghavan, Deepa; Varkey, Anita; Bartter, Thaddeus

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: March 2017 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 117–123
doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000353

Purpose of review Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a widely prevalent and potentially preventable cause of death worldwide. The purpose of this review is to summarize the influence of gender on various attributes of this disease, which will help physicians provide more personalized care to COPD patients.

Recent findings Cultural trends in smoking have morphed the epidemiology of this traditionally male disease. There is an increasing ‘disease burden’ among women with COPD as suggested by the higher prevalence and slower decline in death rates as compared with men. Biologic differences between the genders account for some, but not all of these differences. In women, distinct features need to be considered to boost success of therapeutic interventions such as smoking cessation, addressing comorbidities, and attendance to pulmonary rehabilitation.

Summary COPD in women is distinct from that in men with respect to phenotype, symptom burden, and comorbidities. Women are more predisposed to develop chronic bronchitis, have more dyspnea, and suffer more frequently from coexistent anxiety or depression. They may be more subject than men to misdiagnoses and/or underdiagnoses of COPD, often as a result of physician bias. Knowledge of these gender differences can lead to more effective tailored care of the COPD patient.

aDivision of Pulmonary and Critical Care, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

bCentral Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, Arkansas

cDivision of Primary Care, Loyola University Medical Center, Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois, USA

Correspondence to Deepa Raghavan, MD, FACP, Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W Markham, Mail Slot #555, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205, USA. Tel: +1 501 686 5526; fax: +1 501 686 7893; e-mail:

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