Chandigarh, November 16: World COPD Day 2011 is taking place on November 16 around the theme “Are you short of breath? You may have COPD!
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a non-communicable lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. The Global Burden of Disease Study suggests that COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, causing more than 3 million deaths every year. In India, the count is about 13 million, with 62 percent men and the remaining women. As per the INSEARCH study of the Indian Council of Medical Research pioneered by the PGIMER, Chandigarh COPD accounts for a prevalence of over 4 % of adult population. However, recent studies indicate that 25% to 50% of people with clinically significant COPD don’t even know they have it3. That is because the early stages of COPD are often unrecognized.
“The early symptoms of COPD are chronic cough, bringing up sputum, and breathlessness during physical activity such as exercise or walking up a flight of stairs,” says Dr.SK Jindal. This is mostly common in smoker individuals. “People might discount these symptoms as a normal part of getting older, but they can be signs of a serious disease that needs control and treatment.” he added. A simple, painless breathing test, called spirometry, can help to establish the diagnosis. Many national and international COPD guidelines, including those prepared by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), identify spirometry as the gold standard for diagnosing COPD.
COPD occurs most often in patients who are over age 40 and who have a history of exposure to COPD risk factors. Worldwide, the most commonly encountered risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. Other important risk factors include dusts and chemicals encountered on the job and smoke from biomass fuels (such as coal, wood, and animal dung) burned for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings, especially in developing countries like India.
“People at risk for COPD, such as chronic smokers, should have a medical consultation and spirometry test to check for the disease,” says Dr.SK Jindal. “The earlier COPD is detected, the more effective treatment can be,” he emphasised. Spirometry measures the amount of air a person can breathe out, and the amount of time taken to do so. Since COPD obstructs and slows the flow of air into and out of the lungs, a person with COPD will have spirometry values that are lower than normal. The test is done using a machine called a spirometer and is usually performed in a clinic or doctor’s office. It is a painless test that takes only takes a few minutes to do.
Although there is no cure for COPD, treatments are available that alleviate symptoms of breathlessness so that patients can participate more fully in daily life. Patients may be able to slow or even stop the progress of COPD by reducing their exposure to risk factors, particularly tobacco smoking for the disease. Without treatment, however, COPD is generally a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.
Do I have COPD?
In order to answer that question, answer these questions first.
1. Are you older than 40 years?
2. Do you cough several times on most days?
3. Do you bring up phlegm or mucus often?
4. Do you easily get out of breath?
5. Are you a current smoker or an ex-smoker?
If you answered “Yes” to three or more of these questions, it is a good idea to seek advice of your doctor and a spirometry test to rule out COPD