KOCHI: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases that limit the flow of air to the lungs. The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness and chronic cough. However, COPD is not simply a ‘smoker’s cough’, but an under-diagnosed, life threatening lung disease that may lead to death. According to the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases study, India ranks second in the world after China in terms of number of COPD cases, but when it comes to fatalities, India surpasses China to rank first.
The physical struggle, the breathlessness, difficulty in moving around to do even simple daily tasks can lead to mental stress and weakness. This is the life of a COPD patient, where a daily chore becomes an everyday challenge. The struggle is not only to breathe, but also to find a way to live with COPD. A COPD flare-up happens when the symptoms get worse, or when new symptoms develop. Flare-ups are also called exacerbations or ‘lung attacks’. If such symptoms are left untreated, the consequences can be deadly.
“There are more than 55 million patients in India, making us the COPD capital of the world. Long term subjection to risk factors like smoking, exposure to industrial smoke, and long term use of chulhaas (wood stove) lead to this progressive condition,” said Dr K Venugopal, pulmonologist at District Hospital, Alappuzha.
The worry remains that despite being one of the major killer diseases in India, little is known about it among the public. “By the time I see a patient post lung attack, his/her lungs are substantially damaged. Early diagnosis not only leads to better management of the condition but also improves the quality of life of the patients and caregivers,” said Dr Venugopal.
“Lung check-ups, monitoring the BP and sugar levels should be the priority. Developing countries like ours have higher pollution levels and people have higher chances of exposure to risk factors, which in a long run can lead to lung attack,” pointed Dr Venugopal.
COPD compromises lung capacity as well as lung function and it is diagnosed through lung function tests. Spirometry is the most common lung function test. It measures how much and how quickly you can move air out of your lungs with the help of a machine called a spirometer.
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