World COPD Day 2021: What Is Lung Attack; How Vulnerable Are You?


World COPD Day 2021: What Is Lung Attack; How Vulnerable Are You?

COPD is an irreversible disease but medication and lifestyle can stop progression

When we talk about the leading lung diseases in India, we think of an array of diseases such as COPD, Asthma, Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, and Lung cancer. Lung diseases are no longer a rare sight, but a regular visitor in many of the population, with some lung diseases such as COPD which are completely irreversible. With the rise of pollution, we are also seeing patients come in with acute attacks of bronchitis and allergic airway diseases. The imperative now is to not only create awareness around lung health but also around how vulnerable an individual is to a lung attack. The responsibility for creating this awareness lies with us all. Educating oneself and sharing the knowledge of the adverse effect, especially in the times we live in, is crucial. 

Lung attack: Who is most vulnerable? 

Lung attack is a term used primarily for patients who are suffering from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and they have sudden worsening of their symptoms such as coughing, breathing difficulty, chest pain and sometimes fever. Some associated symptoms can be weakness, malaise and loss of appetite. Hence, it is a term used for COPD patients who develop an acute attack. 

When we talk about the population which is the most vulnerable, there are a few factors to consider. With the rising pollution and other lifestyle changes such as increasing smoking habits, lung attack can impact anyone. However, the most vulnerable are the youth who have developed COPD and often travel outside. In the elderly population, their system is also quite vulnerable to an attack. 

Rising Burden of COPD 

One of most important factors perhaps is the lack of education in the masses. This includes all aspects of creating awareness in the society. There is also a lot of stigmas around these issues and people often fear a visit to the doctor. Prescribing an inhaler continues to have hearsay myths attached to them, till date. This is when awareness becomes even more of an imperative. 

Today, we live in a world where we are not only surrounded by pollution, but also stress, anxiety, sedentary lifestyle and increasing trends of smoking in the youth. All of these eventually lead to complications in the lungs paired with multiple other diseases. They must know that whenever they encounter any breathing difficulty or discomfort, they must consult a physician and get evaluated early.

With this awareness, instead of seeing patients at advanced stages of an irreversible disease, we will be diagnosing and treating them at a more manageable stage which does not hamper their life expectancy or cripple them in any way. 

Life expectancy post COPD

COPD is an irreversible disease; however, the progression can be stopped through medication and lifestyle changes. And when it comes to the life span of a COPD patient, it is definitely reduced due to the disease. We have 4 grades of COPD: 1, 2, 3 and 4 with increasing severity. Considering the Grade 4 COPD patient, their life expectancy is reduced by 6 years compared to the normal population

Live a healthy life post COPD 

Getting regular checks, especially if there is any signs of a lung problem such as breathing difficulty, chest pain or discomfort. For patients living in highly polluted areas, regular pulmonary testing is recommended for all, not only COPD patients. Also, lifestyle changes such as avoiding stress, night shifts, smoking and avoiding highly polluted areas. Patients with lung issues should also be prepared and look out for signs that indicate worsening of the condition. 

We must also follow COVID appropriate behaviour, get vaccinated for flu and pneumococcal vaccines for certain age group. 

(Dr Prashant Saxena, Director and HOD, Pulmonary and Sleep Dept, Associate Director – Critical Care, MAX Hospital, Saket)

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