Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not one single disease but an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases that cause limitations in lung airflow. The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, or a need for air, and a chronic cough. However, COPD is not just simply a smoker cough but an under-diagnosed, life threatening lung disease that may progressively lead to death. India ranks second in the world only after China in terms of number of cases of COPD but when it comes to deaths due to COPD, India has surpassed China and ranks first, according to the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases study.

The physical struggle, the breathlessness, fight to move around and to do simple-daily-tasks can lead to an emotional stirring of self-respect, dignity and fear of losing control of once’s life. This is the life of a COPD patient where a daily chore becomes an everyday challenge. The struggle is not only to breathe but it is also to find a way to live a dignified life with COPD. A COPD flare-up happens when COPD symptoms get worse, or when new symptoms develop. Flare-ups are also called exacerbations or lung attack. Left untreated, COPD flare-ups can have deadly consequences. 
“There are more than 55 million patients in India, making us the COPD capital of the world 1 .” highlights Dr Raja Dhar, MBBS, MD (TB & Respiratory Dis) of Fortis Hospital Anandapur “Long term subjection to risk factors like smoking, exposure to industrial smoke, long term use of Chulhaas lead to this progressive condition called COPD, now popularly understood as Lung attack.” doctor points out.

What worries Dr Partha Sarathi Bhattacharya, MBBS, MD pulmonologist, Institute of Pulmocare  Research that despite being one of the major killer disease in India, very little is known in general public about COPD. “By the time I see a patient post lung attack, the lungs are being substantially damaged. Early diagnosis not only leads to better management of the condition but also improve the quality of life of the patients and the care givers.” He adds “Lung check-up, like BP and sugar check should be in the mind space of general public in our country. Developing counties like ours has higher pollution levels and higher chances of exposures to risk factors, which in a long run can lead to lung attack.”

COPD compromises lung capacity as well as lung function and it is diagnosed by doing lung function tests. Spirometry is the most common lung function test. It measures how much and how quickly you can move air out of your lungs with the help of a machine called a Spirometer. Many doctors believe, Spirometry is the Gold Standard for diagnosis of COPD is not routinely done and diagnosis is largely based on the doctor’s clinical acumen. But all hopes don’t hinge entirely on the early diagnosis. The frequency of lung attack can be reduced with the regular use of inhalers. “Inhalers and it’s delivery system have evolved over years, keeping in mind the number of COPD patients increasing every day. An inhaler with a spacer or a newly introduced Breath actuated inhaler can easily deliver the required drug, in required dosage, directly to the lungs, dilating the airways and reducing the inflammation.” Informs Dr Partha Sarathi Bhattacharya, MBBS, MD pulmonologist, Institute of Pulmocare & Research. He also adds “Yes, in case of severe attack, one has to be hospitalised. But with current development there is a lot that can be done to slow down the progression of this irreversible condition.”

Early diagnosis, correct treatment, adherence to treatment and regular assessment of the condition are the non-negotiable steps in keeping the lung attack in check.

Reference Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016

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