Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • COPD is an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and small airways disease. Lung damage over a long period of time impairs the flow of air in and out of the lungs and causes breathlessness
  • COPD is the 5th biggest killer in the UK[i] and the 5th biggest killer worldwide[ii]. Every hour COPD is estimated to kill over 250 people worldwide[iii]
  • COPD is the only major cause of death whose incidence is on the increase[iv] and is expected to be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020 (exceeded only by heart disease and stroke)[v],[vi],[vii],[viii],[ix]
  • There are an estimated 3 million people with COPD in the UK[x], although only an estimated 900,000 (1.5% of the population) are correctly diagnosed[xi]
  • 24,160 people in the UK died as a result of COPD in 2005[xii]. The disease kills more people every year in the UK than bowel cancer, breast cancer or prostate cancer[xiii]
  • COPD is the third biggest cause of respiratory death in the UK, accounting for more than one fifth (23%) of all respiratory deaths[xiv]
  • In 2005 COPD killed more women than breast cancer: 11,302 died of COPD, 10,969 died of breast cancer[xv]
  • In the UK, the rate of COPD has been increasing nearly three times faster amongst women than men[xvi]
  • Women are more susceptible to developing COPD than men – their lung function worsens with less duration of smoking or intensity of smoking than that of men[xvii]
  • COPD is caused mainly by smoking, but also by exposure to airborne pollution, to harmful fumes or particles at home or at work, or by inheriting a genetic deficiency. Some research suggests that COPD may be related to childhood lung disease
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a very common virus that usually only causes mild cold-like symptoms
  • RSV is a leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. Most of these RSV infections cause minor upper respiratory illness. However, in certain high-risk paediatric patients, RSV infection may cause serious lower respiratory tract disease
  • RSV causes inflammation and obstruction of the lung’s tiniest airways (the bronchioles) and is the most common reason for an infant to be admitted to hospital with a lung infection in Europe
  • 20,000 babies are admitted to hospital in England and Wales every year between November and March because of RSV chest infections[xviii]


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