“The most important prevention is to stop smoking, which can be hard to achieve but it has by far been the best intervention to curb COPD.” – Dr. Nicola Hanania, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Baylor College of Medicine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common lung disease causing restricted airflow and breathing problems. It is sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis. The global prevalence of COPD oscillates around 12% of the general population. COPD currently ranks as the 3rd cause of mortality in the world responsible for 3 million deaths. COPD affects nearly 63 million people in India, which is almost 32% of the world’s COPD burden.
Smoking and air pollution are the most common causes of COPD. Long-term exposure to such irritants damages the lungs and airways. The symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms include cough, difficulty breathing, breathlessness and tiredness. It is not curable but symptoms can improve if one avoids smoking and exposure to air pollution.
COPD should be suspected if a person has typical symptoms, and the diagnosis is confirmed by a breathing test called spirometry, which measures how the lungs are functioning. It is advisable to consult a pulmonologist and take prescribed medications. Usually, inhalers are prescribed to relax the muscles around the airways.
COPD is a prevalent, preventable, and treatable condition, but most often it does not get diagnosed and hence, not treated appropriately. A significant number of individuals remain undiagnosed, with studies suggesting that approximately 50% of those with COPD may not be aware they have the condition. Early diagnosis, quitting smoking and proper medical care can help slow its progression and improve the quality of life for individuals affected by this condition.