When we talk about major lung diseases in India, we think of diseases like COPD, asthma, tuberculosis, pneumonia and lung cancer. Lung diseases are no longer rare but occur regularly in many populations, with some lung diseases such as COPD that are completely irreversible. With the rise in pollution, we are also seeing patients come down with acute attacks of bronchitis and allergic airway diseases. It is now imperative to create awareness about not only lung health, but also how vulnerable a person is to a lung attack. It is the responsibility of all of us to create this awareness. Educating ourselves and sharing knowledge about adverse effects is important, especially in the times we live in.
Lung attack: who is most vulnerable?
Lung attack is mainly used for patients who are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and their symptoms suddenly worsen such as cough, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and sometimes fever. Some related symptoms may be weakness, malaise and loss of appetite. Therefore, it is the term used for COPD patients who develop an acute attack.
When we talk about the population that is most vulnerable, there are a few factors to consider. With increasing pollution and other lifestyle changes such as increased smoking habits, a lung attack can affect anyone. However, the most vulnerable are young people who have developed COPD and travel outside frequently. In the elderly population, their system is also quite vulnerable to attack.
The growing burden of COPD
Perhaps one of the most important factors is the lack of education among the masses. It includes all aspects of creating awareness in the society. There is also a lot of stigma surrounding these issues and people are often afraid of going to the doctor. Prescribing an inhaler has been heard about the rumors associated with them to this day. This is when awareness becomes even more imperative.
Today we live in a world where we are surrounded not only by pollution but also by stress, anxiety, sedentary lifestyle and increasing trend of smoking among the youth. All these eventually lead to complications in the lungs along with many other diseases. They should be aware that whenever they experience difficulty or trouble breathing, they should consult a physician and get an early evaluation.
With this awareness, instead of seeing patients in advanced stages of an irreversible disease, we will diagnose and treat them at a more manageable stage that does not impair their life expectancy or cripple them in any way.
Life Expectancy After COPD
COPD is a degenerative disease; However, progression can be halted through medication and lifestyle changes. And when it comes to the life span of a COPD patient, it certainly reduces because of the disease. We have 4 grades of COPD: 1, 2, 3 and 4 with increasing severity. Considering a grade 4 COPD patient, their life expectancy is reduced by 6 years compared to the general population.
Live a Healthy Life After COPD
Getting regular checkups, especially if there are any signs of a lung problem such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or discomfort. Routine pulmonary testing is recommended for everyone, not just COPD patients, for patients living in highly polluted areas. Also, lifestyle changes such as avoiding stress, going on night shifts, smoking and avoiding highly polluted areas. Patients with lung problems should also be prepared and pay attention to symptoms that indicate worsening of the condition.
We should also follow the appropriate treatment of COVID, get flu and pneumococcal vaccines for certain age groups.
(Dr Prashant Saxena, Director & HOD, Pulmonary and Sleep Department, Associate Director – Critical Care, Max Hospital, Saket)
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