#WorldCOPDDay: Diagnose COPD early to prevent lung and heart attack

Each year, November is celebrated at World COPD Awareness Month, on the occasion, lets understand the impact of COPD better

Mumbai hospitals and doctors notice a spike in respiratory ailments

According to reports, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is causing 2,300 deaths per day in India; India has become the ‘COPD Capital of the World’.

The severity of COPD can be judged by the fact that India has the most cases of COPD in the world and ranks 2nd when it comes to death caused by COPD, as per reports. COPD is causing more deaths than Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), tuberculosis (TB), malaria, diabetes all put together. Despite the alarming numbers, very little is written or talked about COPD. Another graving factor is that poor and delayed COPD diagnosis & management is worsening the situation, and leading the patient to ‘lung attack’.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Prashant Chhajed, Interventional Pulmonologist, Director-Lung Care & Sleep Centre, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, said, “Persistent exposure to the risk factors and respiratory infections can aggravate the condition.  The lack of awareness, its symptoms and implications contribute significantly in preventing people from seeking help and reaching out to their primary care physicians. And even if they visit the general practitioner, the possibility of under-diagnosis is high.”

He added, “Diagnosis of lung attack is often based on the degree of worsening signs of COPD, such as oxygen levels being lower than normal, findings of physical examination by a doctor, wheezing and rapid shallow breathing. Identifying the signs and symptoms of lung attack and getting timely help from physician is the best way to prevent further worsening of disease progression. Lung Attack requires urgent medical attention and if it is left untreated it can result in fatal implications.”

Patients of COPD had a 5-fold increased odds of having cardiovascular disease. COPD has been shown to increase the risk of Arrhythmias, Systemic Hypertension, Angina, Acute Myocardial Infarction and Congestive Cardiac Failure. Patients with COPD, who present primarily with breathlessness as a symptom, have an almost 2-fold increased risk of having associated coronary heart disease.

This suggests that cardiac complications may start to develop early in the course of COPD and may remain subclinical for a long time. Therefore, all patients of COPD must be routinely screened for Congestive Cardiac Failure, Ischemic Heart Disease and Hypertension. Similarly, all patients with Congestive Cardiac Failure, Ischemic Heart Disease and Hypertension should be routinely screened for COPD.

Correspondingly, lung attack can be tackled by using inhalers to open the airways and reduce inflammation; one may require hospitalisation if the symptoms become severe.

Lungs mainly function to supply oxygen to our body and get rid of the carbon dioxide, lung attacks may interfere with this, so we may be required to take supplemental oxygen to help us breathe better. Spirometry or PFT (Pulmonary Function Test) is the most common Lung Function Test; it is the Gold Standard for diagnosis of COPD.  It measures how much and how quickly you can release air out of your lungs with the help of a machine called a Spirometer.

COPD symptoms awareness, timely diagnosis and correct treatment can help a patient prevent a lung attack and heart attack. The two vital organs lungs and heart underpin each other. It is fair to say, a healthy lung and heart mean healthy life.