Women who develop COPD report smoking fewer cigarettes than men yet women experience greater breathing impairments, are subjected to more acute exacerbations of symptoms and report lower quality of life than men with the disease, according to research presented at ATS 2019.

Researchers analyzed 1,832 participants (42% women) who participated in the SPIROMICS study. Participants had a > 20 pack-year smoking history and COPD, defined by a post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio <0.70. Age, smoking status, race, and FEV1 % predicted were similar between women and men but women reported fewer smoking pack-years.

According to results, female gender was independently associated with greater respiratory-specific QoL impairment, greater general QoL impairment, reduced 6MWDs, higher odds of hypoxemia with 6MWT, being symptomatic, experiencing frequent AECOPD, and severe AECOPD in the prior year. Using the same data source, researchers now plan to investigate the role hormonal factors may play in these gender differences.