These differences may play a role in the increased death rate seen among female patients with COPD, said researcher Claudia Cote, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
The researchers studied 85 women, and compared them with 95 men who had the same levels of COPD severity according to guidelines of the Global Initiative for Chronic Lung Disease (GOLD). They found that female patients were significantly younger than male patients with the same severity of disease. The women had lower lung function, more trouble breathing, and reported a worse quality of life. The women also received a worse score on the BODE index, which looks at lung function, nutritional status, symptoms and exercise capacity in order to measure a COPD patient's disease severity and predicted survival.
COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in America, claiming the lives of 120,000 Americans in 2002. Beginning in 2000, women have exceeded men in the number of deaths attributable to COPD. In 2002, over 61,000 females died compared with 59,000 males.
Reasons that women with COPD do worse than their male counterparts, Dr. Cote said, may be related to underdiagnosis, misdiagnosis and less access to healthcare.
While the study findings may appear discouraging for women with COPD, the way in which the patients were assessed can lead to improvements in treatment for all COPD patients, Dr. Cote said.
"Until recently, doctors have used only lung function as a measurement for COPD severity," Dr. Cote said. "But we've come a long way in understanding this disease, and we now know that while COPD affects the respiratory system, it also has tremendous
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American Thoracic Society