Millennium Post

Air pollution, smoking leading to rise in COPD in city

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is on the rise in the city, due to smoking and long-term exposure to lung irritants such as dust, chemical fumes and air pollution, city doctors have cautioned.

According to the doctors, cigarette smoking is the major contributor towards the development of COPD among patients in the city. Statistics reveal that in Kolkata, eight out of 10 COPD-related deaths occur due to smoking.

Sujay Pal, a 45-year-old marketing professional, had been suffering from persistent cough, resulting in mucus and shortness of breath for a couple of months. An active smoker for over 25 years, Sujay initially did not pay any heed to the symptoms. He was, however, forced to consult a doctor as the symptoms worsened, especially his breathlessness.

After examining his primary symptoms, a doctor prescribed a lung function test followed by spirometry.

Sujoy was eventually diagnosed to be suffering from COPD, a lung disease where the air flow in and out of the lung airways decreases, which makes breathing difficult for the patient.

COPD also includes a group of lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema.

It is one of the leading causes of disability and it stands second in the list of causative agents for deaths in people above 50 years of age.

According to a survey, around 22.6 million Indians currently are suffering from COPD. At about 556,000 COPD-related deaths occur in India every year. The nation is estimated to have the highest COPD mortality rate in the world.

According to the Indian Study on Epidemiology of Asthma, Respiratory Symptoms and Chronic Bronchitis in Adults, the overall prevalence of chronic bronchitis among Indian adults over 35 years is 3.49 per cent.

If one is a smoker, he/she also puts others at risk of contracting COPD. In a recent study, it was found that smokers with COPD have double the risk of developing small cell cancer, which accounts for 15-18 per cent of lung cancers across the world.

Physical exertion of most kinds would leave the patient breathless, even as weight-loss coupled with weakness further deteriorates the quality of one’s life.Without warning, one may experience exacerbation of COPD, a sudden flare-up and worsening of the symptoms.

Sometimes, exacerbation can even turn out to be life-threatening. The longer one suffers from COPD, the more severe these flare-ups would be. Since COPD is usually asymptomatic, it is diagnosed in middle-aged or adults.

Kolkata-based consultant Dr Surajit Chatterjee said: “COPD patients find it difficult to breathe due to decreased air flow through the airways. Different factors may contribute to decreased air flow, including destruction of the walls between a number of air sacs, compromised elastic quality of air sacs and airways, thickening and inflammation of airway walls and high production of mucus by the airways.”

He also said that it is mandatory for smokers over the age of 40 – both active and those who gave up smoking after turning 40 – to undertake spirometry, a test to determine lung function. The sooner one quits smoking, the lesser the damage would be.
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