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More Severe COPD Symptoms in Women Than Men

December 14, 2018

Authors of a recent study found that older women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were more likely to have more severe COPD than older men, despite less years smoking.

Previous studies have explored the effect one’s gender has on COPD diagnosis and symptoms. For the present study, Dawn L DeMeo, MD, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA), and coauthors explored age-associated gender differences across a range of COPD severities.1

Current and former smokers with COPD from the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD cohort were investigated (N = 4484) using regression modeling to explore the association between gender, age, disease severity, and the contributing elements of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) classification system (ie, symptoms, exacerbation risk, airflow limitation).

Compared to men with COPD, younger women with COPD had a greater likelihood of more severe dyspnea, airflow limitation, greater risk for exacerbations, and categorization in GOLD groups B and D. These differences were less pronounced in older women with COPD. However, older women remained more likely to experience severe dyspnea and to manifest more severe COPD (GOLD groups B vs A) than older men, despite lower pack-years of smoking.

Authors said: “More research is needed to understand the pathogenesis of increased severity of COPD in women and to develop gender-targeted clinical assessment and management approaches to improve outcomes for women and men with COPD.”

Amanda Del Signore


DeMeo DL, Ramagopalan S, Kavati A, et al. Women manifest more severe COPD symptoms across the life course. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2018;13:3021-3029.

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