More women are at risk for serious lung damage because of misdiagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For example, the number of women in the United States and Europe who die from COPD has doubled in the past 20 years. The misdiagnosis of COPD was confirmed by a recent survey of North American primary care physicians.
The survey examined the diagnostic approach of physicians to a hypothetical ex-smoker experiencing breathlessness and uncomfortable breathing on exertion. The results found that, when the patient was a man, 64.6% of the physicians considered COPD to be the most likely diagnosis. When the patient was a woman, 49% considered COPD to be the most likely diagnosis.
The number of COPD cases among women is expected to increase. A recent study of COPD patients in North America suggested that hospitalization for the condition will grow to such an extent that by 2015, approximately twice as many women will be hospitalized for COPD, compared with men. In addition, women appear to contract COPD at a younger age than men and may be more susceptible to infections due to the smaller size of their airways.