Why Women with Asthma are More Likely to Develop COPD
A study recently published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has shown that four out of every 10 women with asthma may eventually develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The research team, led by Teresa To, studied 4,051 women who were diagnosed with asthma. They followed the women on average for 14 years and found that 1,701 of them – or 42 percent – developed COPD.
The researchers also studied asthma and COPD overlap syndrome, which is often referred to as ACOS. They found that there has been a sharp rise in women with ACOS in recent years, and that more women than men die from ACOS. They also found that fine particulate matter, which is a common air pollutant that has been shown to travel to the lungs and cause lung disturbances, is not as much of a factor in the development of ACOS as other individual risk factors, such as smoking.
According to their analyses, women who had smoked a pack each day for at least five years developed ACOS at significantly higher rates than those who smoked fewer or no cigarettes. Nonetheless, refraining from smoking does not guarantee that women with asthma will avoid ACOS. In fact, 28 percent of those who developed ACOS had never been smokers. Other factors that are associated with higher rates of ACOS development are: obesity, lower levels of education, unemployment and rural residence.
Based on the factors that appeared to increase the risk for developing ACOS, the scientists suggested that low socioeconomic status and lower access to care or lower adherence to medication recommendations could account for the increased incidence of ACOS. Indeed, improperly treated asthma can result in more frequent asthma attacks and more opportunity for remodeling conducive to COPD to occur within the lungs.
The good news is that the factors that were identified as associated with ACOS development are modifiable, which suggests that the rising incidence of ACOS among women could be curbed with proper interventions. Given that women who developed end up in the hospital more frequently and have a poorer quality of life than those who are diagnosed with only asthma or only COPD, it is important that we figure out ways to minimize ACOS. More research aimed at how to prevent the development of ACOS will help clinicians to provide care and recommendations for their patients to reduce the likelihood that asthma will develop into COPD.