COPD and Non CF Bronchiectasis in the US

Prevalence of COPD and Non-CF Bronchiectasis in the US

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchiectasis are diseases of the lungs affecting a person’s ability to breathe and leading to decreased quality of life.

Collectively characterized by airflow blockage, bronchial dilation, inflammation and scarring, these diseases often co-exist but require different treatments for successful management of symptoms.

For the right treatment to be prescribed and carried out, lung problems must be properly diagnosed. Overlapping symptoms may make it difficult to discern which condition a patient is dealing with or if both conditions are present. Because of this, practitioners must be aware of the distinct symptoms associated with each disease and how to use appropriate medications and procedures to address the constellation of possible complications.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2014. As of the same year, the average death rate from chronic obstructive lung diseases was 44.3 per 100,000 people. Around 15.7 million people have been diagnosed with some form of the disease, amounting to 6.4 percent of the population. Among known cases, about 15 percent are attributed to occupational exposure to vapors, chemicals, dust and other substances. Those working in the agricultural, food and mining industries have a higher risk of developing a lung disease. Working in fishing, construction or forestry appears to pose less of a risk.

Bronchiectasis is hard to differentiate from COPD but recent studies are showing it may be more common than was previously suspected. Prevalence was once thought to be around 52 cases per 100,000 people, but a 2013 study suggested the actual number may be closer to 139 per 100,000. In 52 percent of the cases observed, study participants also presented with chronic obstructive pulmonary problems.

The findings of this study suggest that between 340,000 and 522,000 adults were receiving treatment for bronchiectasis and 70,000 adults were newly diagnosed with bronchiectasis, in 2013 US clinical practice, making it more important than ever for medical professionals to recognize the symptoms of Bronchiectasis.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease describes a group of conditions affecting the lungs, causing problems with airflow and making it difficult for sufferers to breathe normally. Bronchiectasis involves damage to the bronchi, the main passages moving air into and out of the lungs. Bronchi get smaller as they branch out into the lungs, and the inflammation associated with this condition can cause complications in the narrow passageways.

Both of these lung disorders may manifest with symptoms like shortness of breath, chronic coughing, daily expectoration of mucus and airflow obstruction, and many patients may suffer from both conditions at once. However, while the cough in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is usually wet, bronchial inflammation and damage may cause either a wet or a dry cough.

Bronchial inflammation symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Thickened bronchial walls
  • Tiredness
  • Unusual airway shape
  • Yellow or green mucus

Different triggers are associated with each disease. Smoking is the most common cause behind chronic pulmonary diseases. These may also be caused by exposure to air pollution, genetic predisposition or certain respiratory infections. Bronchial inflammation and damage is associated with serious lung infections during childhood, whooping cough, measles, compromised immunity, severe fungal or mold allergies, airway blockage, gastric reflux and genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis.

Despite these differences, overlapping symptoms can make it difficult for physicians to pinpoint and assign an accurate diagnosis. Current statistics reflect conditions assumed to be properly identified.