KOCHI: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a common lung condition characterised by a persistent cough, phlegm production, shortness of breath, wheezing and recurrent lung infections. It is one of the groups of diseases caused by smoking. As per the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines 2019, COPD was the 4th leading cause of death the world over this year. More than three million people suffering from COPD succumbed to the disease in 2012. With continued exposure to increasing pollution, COPD is expected to become the third leading cause of death in the coming decade.
COPD affects the small airways and alveoli of the lungs. The most common risk factors are smoking (both active and passive) and biomass fuel exposure. Environmental pollution, overcrowding, occupational exposure to smoke and chemicals and certain genetic lung-related diseases like alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, lung anomalies are other factors. These risks result in impaired lung growth, inflammation, injury to the tissue and accelerated decline of functions.
COPD is divided into two types–emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There are different stages of COPD ranging from mild to severe with significant morbidity. Treatment is based on a comprehensive assessment of symptoms and lung function. The disease can be diagnosed through a spirometry test. The initial treatment procedure involves prescription of simple bronchodilators which is later modified based on recovery. Every patient with COPD should undergo regular pulmonary rehabilitation (a supervised program that includes exercise of lung muscles, health education, and breathing techniques. Vaccination is important for the prevention of common community-acquired infections.
Appropriate treatment is important for COPD cure. Uncontrolled symptoms and inadequate treatment can lead to rapid worsening of lung function. In some cases, patients with severe COPD would require counselling. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and combined contribution towards pollution control can achieve desired results in curbing COPD. This World COPD Day, Let’s pledge to eradicate the disease.
The writer is consultant of respiratory medicine at SUT Hospital, Pattom. (The views expressed are her own)