Frontier Lifeline Hospital conducts a smoking cessation campaign to spread knowledge about the disease

Difficulty in breathing need not be due to asthma. It could be due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a condition in which the lung function is irreparably damaged.

Chest physicians and pulmonologists advise spirometry tests to find out if the patient has asthma or COPD. While asthma is curable, COPD is not, says R. Narasimhan of Respiratory Research Foundation of India.

The theme for this year's COPD Day observed on Wednesday was ‘Know your lung health'. As part of the day, Frontier Lifeline Hospital, Mogappair, conducted a smoking cessation campaign to spread knowledge about the disease. COPD is a progressive condition which damages the lung severely over a period of time.

K. Madhu, consultant pulmonologist at the hospital, said 80 per cent of the 60 patients who volunteered to be tested had a history of smoking and at least 60 per cent of them were found to have some abnormality in lung function.

Though smoking is the major cause of COPD, rapid industrialisation and vehicular emission had impacted the lung health of even those not exposed to smoke of any kind, he said.

“According to the World Health Organisation, COPD is the fourth most common cause of death. Pulmonologists have found that only around seven per cent of COPD patients are smokers. We have to look at non-potential victims such as women who work in ill-ventilated kitchen,” he said.

Pulmonologists use broncho-dilators to test the patient's lung capacity. “Often patients may mistake breathing difficulty to have been caused by heart problem whereas it could be due to COPD,” Dr. Madhu says.

The complications include breathing difficulty which could affect the heart, putting a patient at risk for heart attack or heart failure. Diabetes worsens the condition leading the patient to develop stroke. Inevitably patients are malnourished and develop sleep disorders. The patient need help to do their daily activities.

Dr. Narasimhan said quitting smoking, taking up physiotherapy and respiratory exercises have a therapeutic effect.

“The lung is damaged by oxide radicals. Though anti-oxidant drugs are available a diet of apples, nuts and dates that are rich sources of anti-oxidants will help slow down further damage to the lungs,” Dr. Narasimhan says.

It is necessary to prevent infection by avoiding exposure to cold and dust. Prophylactic vaccines for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines once in five years and use of inhalers to prevent severe broncho-spasms are advised, he adds.


R. SujathaJune 28, 2012