Investigating sex differences in dyspnea across the spectrum of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease severity

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) results in breathlessness, reduced activity level and quality of life. The number of women with COPD in BC is increasing. Healthy women experience more breathlessness during exercise compared to men. Women with mild COPD experience even more breathlessness and report worse quality of life. The basis for sex differences in breathlessness across the full spectrum of COPD disease severity has not been studied and is the main focus of our proposed research.

We will explore how breathlessness differs between women and men with mild-to-severe COPD in a group of patients that undergo lung function testing and specialized exercise testing as well as using data from a Canadian cohort study of COPD patients. We will also use high resolution imaging of the lungs to relate structural changes due to COPD to the symptoms women experience.

This is the first study to explore sex differences in breathlessness across COPD disease severity from two perspectives, using detailed exercise tests and a complementary COPD database. Understanding breathlessness in women with COPD is a first step in order to develop effective treatment strategies for the increased symptoms women experience.