COPD incidence on the rise because of increasing vehicular and industrial pollution

Increasing vehicular and industrial pollution and number of smokers in urban areas has resulted in the rise in the incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung ailment that is characterised by a persistent blockage of airflow from the lungs.

COPD is an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms of chronic bronchitis and emphysema are now included within the COPD diagnosis, according to doctors.

City-based pulmonologists, who are seeing an increased number of patients with COPD, said the disease was no longer confined to smokers. This is because pollution — both indoor and outdoor — and lifestyle changes are also found to be the causes.

Mohan Rao, professor and head of the Department of Pulmonology at M.S. Ramaiah Medical College and Hospital, said there was nearly a 6 per cent rise in the number of COPD cases in the city in the last few years.

“Nearly 15 per cent of the city’s population has one or the other respiratory problem. Persistent cough and breathlessness are the initial warning signs of COPD,” he said.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness (or a need for air), abnormal sputum (a mix of saliva and mucus in the airway), and a chronic cough. Dr. Rao said daily activities, such as walking up a short flight of stairs or carrying a suitcase, could become very difficult as the condition gradually worsens.

Ajith Kumar A.K., consultant pulmonologist at HCG Cancer Care Network, said a few years ago COPD was common in men. “But the scenario has changed now and women are equally affected. This is because of increased tobacco use among women and the higher risk of exposure to indoor air pollution caused by the use of fuels such as kerosene, wood and biomass in badly ventilated kitchens,” he said.

Asserting that even passive smokers were at risk, he said COPD could be prevented if people follow a healthy lifestyle from the beginning.

World COPD Day

Every year, the third Wednesday of November is globally observed as World COPD Day. The theme for this year is ‘It is not too late’. The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide and the fifth leading cause of morbidity by 2030.

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