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There is an Urgent Need to Prioritize Care for COPD Patients

In Health
November 17, 2021

As we observe World COPD Day, here are some of the important and alarming facts about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). 

 India is the ‘COPD Capital of the World’; our country has the highest number of COPD cases in the world
 COPD prevalence among the population aged 30 years and above in India is 7%
 India ranks second in the world in COPD deaths
 COPD causes more deaths than AIDS, TB, Malaria, Diabetes all put together

Despite these disturbing facts, the public awareness on COPD is poor, which can result in a delay in COPD diagnosis. Further, delayed diagnosis and poor/suboptimal COPD management can result in flare -up of the disease (COPD exacerbation or LUNG ATTACK). In a lung attack, symptoms of COPD such as breathlessness and cough increase significantly. This is often accompanied by feeling tired and sometimes swelling of the ankles. Lung attacks can have serious consequences. They can lead to hospitalization, admission to Intensive care and can be fatal. They can cause accelerated decline in an already compromised lung function. 

COPD commonly occurs due to significant exposure to noxious particles or gases. It is usually more common in smokers, men, and those above 40 years of age. Traditionally, tobacco smoking has been recognized as an important risk factor for COPD. However, it is being increasingly recognized that women, who use chulla or biogas for cooking purposes (common in rural villages), are also at a high risk of COPD. In addition, exposure to air pollution occupational factors and repeated respiratory infections increase the risk of COPD.

Dr. Pamez A R, MBBS, MD (Chest Medicine), Lissie Hospital, Cochin said, “Persistent exposure to the risk factors and repeated respiratory infections can aggravate the underlying COPD leading to a lung attack. The lack of awareness on COPD contributes significantly in preventing people from seeking help and reaching out to their doctors. Identifying the signs and symptoms of COPD and lung attack and getting timely help from a physician is the best way to prevent further worsening of disease progression. If smokers and other people with risk factors understand that they can get a LUNG ATTACK which requires urgent medical attention they will seek help early . Timely diagnosis of the disease is important which can be done by regularly checking lung function in patients who are symptomatic and at risk of COPD”. 

Spirometry, which is a lung function test, is the Gold Standard for diagnosis of COPD. However, it is not commonly performed, and diagnosis is largely based on the patient’s history and symptoms. Not doing spirometry can result in a lot of COPD cases being missed.

Highlighting the importance of diagnosis, Dr. Kiran Vishnu Narayan, Associate Professor, Govt MCH, Trivandrum stated, “Early screening and diagnosis plays a very crucial role in decreasing the disease burden of lung attacks. Performing spirometry in populations with respiratory symptoms is vital as it avoids misdiagnosis and assists in evaluating the severity of the airflow limitation. While the causes for respiratory ailments may not completely be in one’s control, being alert and aware for timely detection is critical.”

Dr. Jaideep Gogtay, Global Chief Medical Officer, Cipla, said, “At Cipla, we believe that the right awareness will help people understand the importance of early and accurate diagnosis of COPD and thus help prevent lung attack. With India having one of the highest COPD burdens in Asia, this becomes even more crucial. On the occasion of World COPD Day, Cipla is launching Spirofy, India’s first pneumotach based portable, wireless and affordable Spirometer. Cipla’s Spirofy is a result of 5 years of meticulous in-house development, and it aims to transform Obstructive Airway Disease (OAD) diagnosis in India. We hope the device will be able to save lives by giving a timely and accurate diagnosis.”