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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and its burden in India

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, is a group of lung conditions that makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have become narrowed. The two conditions that fall under the umbrella of COPD conditions are Bronchitis and Emphysema. COPD is usually caused by excessive smoking but other factors such as exposure to chemicals, fumes, dust or increase in mucus production. COPD is at present the world’s fourth leading cause of death. Experts claim it may be the third-biggest cause of death worldwide within a decade. The burden of COPD in India causes half a million Indians to die every year.    

In India, air pollution, both indoor and outdoor is the third-largest cause of death among all other health risks. So over the years the cases of COPD has increased dramatically in India. Since the symptoms of COPD – shortness of breath, cough, wheezing and more phlegm or sputum are similar to asthma, signs of old age or other lung diseases, there is a lack of awareness and underdiagnosis of the disease. There are at least three reasons why India is having a hard diagnosis of this disease. One, most people assume the only significant symptom of COPD is shortness of breath. Two, they often confuse this with other asthma-like lung disorders. Then three, those who do have some basic COPD knowledge believe this disorder is confined to only smokers.Of course, there are other things, too: not all technicians are using the right COPD testing devices. The gold standard is the method of spirometry-instead of depending on account of the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Consequently COPD remains generally undiagnosed. This is especially true with respect to rural areas. Research in 2012 showed that they had found twice as many cases of COPD in rural Indian they used spirometry for diagnosis. 

The burden of COPD in India is seen mostly in Bengaluru city. Doctors say Bengaluru is now seeing an increase in a number of cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD) due to poor air quality. The overall prevalence of COPD among the surveyed population in Bengaluru was 4.36 per cent, according to a report by the Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences in Bengaluru. Male and female prevalence was 5.32 percent, and 3.41 percent , respectively. Dr Shashidhara G, a pulmonologist with his own practice, told 101 Reporters that there is a growing number of COPD patients in town. He pointed out that most patients belong to poor financial backgrounds which have no access to clean cooking fuels. 

Today, COPD is not limited to smoking but is also caused by long term exposure to secondhand smoke or exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes and dust. You are mostly to develop COPD if you are vulnerable or regularly exposed to any of the lung irritants. So it is necessary to get checked by a doctor.  

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