Srinagar: Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Kashmir is 15 to18 per cent.
People diagnosed with this chronic disease often find themselves having a tough time breathing. In current times, it is very important to follow one’s doctor’s treatment and advise religiously to keep the lungs healthy and function optimally. To know more about COPD, The Kashmir Monitor caught up with Dr Syed Mudasir Qadri, SKIMS Pulmonary and Internal Medicine Consultant.
KM: What is COPD?
Dr Qadri: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease. When someone has COPD, breathing is difficult because the airways become inflamed and thickened. The tissue in the lungs that exchange oxygen becomes damaged, which makes it harder for air to flow in and out of the lungs. COPD symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, breathing difficulties, chronic cough, respiratory infections, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and swelling of the legs, feet, and ankle. Moreover, some of the symptoms may overlap with Covid-19. So it is important to visit a doctor to carry out a correct diagnosis.
KM: What is the extent of COPD in Kashmir? Which age group is more susceptible? How far is the population aware about the prevalence of this disease?
Dr Qadri: So far as the extent of COPD in Kashmir is concerned, it comes in the high prevalence regions in the country and the world as well. Few studies have been done over the last decade which has shown the prevalence to be somewhere between 15-18%. As per BOLD study (burden of lung diseases), one of the prominent International studies of which General Medicine department SKIMS was also a part, published in the famous journal THORAX revealed the prevalence of COPD of about 17.3% in this part of the world. For knowing the precise burden of the disease, studies need to be done on a larger scale and one such study is presently being carried out in SKIMS by the departments of Medical Research and General Medicine.
COPD is a disease of late middle age and the elderly, but of late we have been seeing a shift in the involved age groups towards the younger side. This is possibly due to ever-increasing air pollution and occupational exposure to fumes from burning fuel etc. Apart from other factors like smoking and biomass fuel exposure, poverty and poor socioeconomic conditions also play a big role in the aetiology and prognosis of the disease.
Because of its high prevalence, many households and almost every neighbourhood have patients affected by this disease. So, people know about it but what we need to lay stress on is awareness regarding its proper treatment and follow up. Many of these patients are in the advanced stages of the disease and need domiciliary oxygen support, which many of these patients cannot afford because of poor financial status ultimately leading to poor outcomes.
KM: What have you tried to highlight through the recent research paper titled” Long Term Oxygen Therapy in Patients of COPD in Kashmir – Adherence and Barriers to Adherence”? What were the key findings?
Dr Qadri: Departments of General Medicine and Geriatric Medicine, SKIMS carried out a study which was published in a renowned journal titled “Long Term Oxygen Therapy in Patients of COPD in Kashmir – Adherence and Barriers to Adherence”. The study revealed that the oxygen usage among patients who have been prescribed home oxygen therapy is far from optimal, and both patient and physician related factors are responsible for it.
The adherence to long term oxygen therapy remains poor. In addition to the socio-economic factors, the treating doctors or specialists remain greatly responsible for such a poor utilization of this important modality of treatment. The researchers suggested exploiting the physician-patient relationship to counsel the patients and make them understand in detail the benefits of this treatment, hence improving compliance.
KM: How to keep COPD and COPD exacerbations at bay?
Dr Qadri: Here are a few suggestions:
- Stop Smoking, avoid airborne irritants.
- Stop or decrease the exposure to biomass fuel
- Get all your vaccinations including Pneumococcal, Influenza and of course COVID 19
- Follow the advice of your treating physician strictly including COPD treatment.
- Do a little bit of exercise in consultation with your doctor or a respiratory therapist.
- Eat healthy foods and avoid exposure to intense cold especially during winters.