Monday, December 01, 2014

Why Do We Need to Be Aware of COPD?



Statistics have already spoken that COPD or Chronic Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the 21st century. Did you know that it is also the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020? Last week, I was invited at the COPD Forum and discovered that COPD is a disease we should look out for. 


In the Philippines alone, COPD it ranks as the 7th leading cause of death with a prevalence rate of 13.8% in Manila. Sadly, despite all the figures, only 2% of the cases are diagnosed by doctors in contrast to the overall prevalence. And because not all of us are aware of how COPD crawls into our lives, many would like to think that this is just an easy-peasy illness.
Dr. Tim Trinidad, Chairman, Phil. College of Chest Physicians

But what really is COPD? Medical research says that COPD is characterized by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lungs. Cigarette smoking continues to be identified as the most commonly encountered risk factor, accounting for 80-90% of cases. Other risk factors that should be taken into account include air pollution,  exposure to certain dust, chemicals in the workplace, indoor air pollution from biomass cooking (i.e. firewood/charcoal), and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings. Only a few cases of COPD are caused by genetic condition.

World COPD Day
A clinical diagnosis should be considered in any person 40 years old and above who has risk factors such as exposure to noxious particles or gases.  A COPD patient may not feel anything at the start and develop cough and sputum production during the mid to late stage of the disease.  Thus, high index of suspicion is needed for any person with risk factors. Spirometry is needed to make a confident diagnosis of COPD. It is one of the diagnostic tools that is often underutilized in the Philippines.  A person with risk factors and symptoms should ask his/her doctor about spirometry testing.

The impact of COPD is not only confined to its ill effects on the individual’s health but may also result in an economic and social burden that is both extensive and increasing. There is a direct relationship between the severity of COPD and the cost of care.  In developing countries like the Philippines, COPD will certainly force two individuals to give up their work - the person afflicted with COPD and a family member who must now stay home to care for the sick individual. Given that people are often the most vital asset for developing nations, the indirect costs of COPD potentially pose a serious threat to their economies. 

Appropriate pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions are needed to reduce the symptoms, frequency and severity of exacerbations and improve health status and exercise tolerance. Smoking cessation is without doubt still the single most effective way of reducing the risk of developing COPD and delaying its progression.

Eric Quizon sharing Dolphy's memories

During the forum, Eric Quizon, son of the late Dolphy, shared his experience when his Dad was diagnosed with the disease. He mentioned that it was very frustrating for them during that time because one minute, his dad will be okay, then the next day, it'll be the worse for him. Their family thought that if it was detected earlier, then Dolphy would not have been in and out of the hospital during his time. 


Now, we can outlaw COPD by early detection and appropriate interventions. By doing these, we can help slow down its advance and facilitate quality of life for the patient.  To quote 2014 World COPD Day’s theme:  IT’S NEVER TOO LATE….

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