Risk Factors for Developing COPD

Camille Tovera-Magsombol, OTD, OTR/L

November 5, 2019

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Question

What are the risk factors for developing COPD? 

Answer

Worldwide, it is mostly accepted that the main risk factor for COPD is tobacco smoking. However, non-smokers may also develop COPD. It can either result from exposure over time to noxious gases and particles. It can also be a result of an individual's genetics, airway hyper-responsiveness, or poor lung growth during childhood. Other risk factors are outdoor and indoor air pollution, from burning wood or other fuels used for cooking and heating in a poorly ventilated area. And, if you work in an environment with organic and inorganic specks of dust, chemical agents, and fumes, this is considered occupational exposure and a risk factor. This may surprise everybody but the female gender is actually a risk factor for developing COPD. It is largely unknown why this is, but it could be a combination of different factors such as the airways of women being relatively smaller. So, if they smoke cigarettes, there is more concentration of cigarette smoke. It could also be from the different way that they metabolize cigarette smoke or a different inflammatory response to cigarette smoke. Age is also a risk factor. As we age, there are age-related changes in our respiratory system, and this may increase our risk of developing COPD. Socioeconomic status is also consistently associated with airflow obstruction and an increased risk of developing COPD. This may be due to exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants, crowding, poor nutrition, infection, or other factors. Asthma and airway hyperactivity has also been linked in studies to a 12-fold higher risk of acquiring COPD. Chronic bronchitis may also contribute to the frequency of total severe exacerbations, and infections can also reduce the lung function and increase respiratory symptoms.


camille tovera magsombol

Camille Tovera-Magsombol, OTD, OTR/L

Camille Tovera-Magsombol is an OT Clinical Specialist at NYU Langone Health Rusk Rehabilitation inpatient unit. She has led quality improvement projects that aim to improve service delivery to patients with chronic diseases such as COPD, diabetes, and low vision. She advocates for increasing the familiarity, competency, and confidence of OTs in the field of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. As part of this advocacy, she has presented on these topics both within the medical center and at the American Occupational Therapy Association annual conference.


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