Call to action: improving primary care for women with COPD

15 Feb 2017
Respiratory conditions
  • COPD
Respiratory topics
  • Disease management
  • Diagnosis
  • Gender
Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Tsiligianni I, Rodríguez MR, Lisspers K, LeeTan T, Infantino A


In this perspective-based article, which is based on findings from a comprehensive literature search, we discuss the significant and growing burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in women worldwide. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease now affects both men and women almost equally. Despite this, there remains an outdated perception of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a male-dominated disease. Primary care physicians play a central role in overseeing the multidisciplinary care of women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Many women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease delay seeking medical assistance, due to fear of stigmatization or dismissing symptoms as a 'smoker's cough'. Improving awareness is important to encourage women with symptoms to seek advice earlier. Once women do seek help, primary care physicians need to have knowledge of the nuances of female chronic obstructive pulmonary disease disease presentation to avoid mis- or delayed diagnosis, both of which are more common in women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than men. Subsequent management should consider gender-specific issues, such as differential incidences of comorbid conditions, potentially higher symptom burden, and a higher risk of exacerbations. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment and smoking cessation management should be specifically tailored to the individual woman and reviewed regularly to optimize patient outcomes. Finally, education should be an integral part of managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in women as it will help to empower them to take control of their disease.