Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by persistence obstruction of airflow. COPD involves two types of ailments, namely chronic bronchitis and emphysema, causing chronic obstruction of air flowing through the airways and in and out of the lungs. Generally, people suffering from COPD show combination of features from both diseases processes. Latest study published in Lancet showed that COPD is much more prevalent in individuals more than 35 of age than congestive heart failure, acute heart attack, and several common cancers.
What are the main causes of COPD?
Smoking is attributed as the main cause of COPD, which inadvertently damages the lining of the airways. The research shows that more than 90% of COPDs are caused by smoking, cigarette or otherwise; with ~30% of long term smokers will show symptoms of COPD of varying degrees. COPD may be caused by other factors such as pollution and inherited enzyme deficiency namely alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
Damage caused by smoking triggers a response to injury, inflammation occurs in the lining of airways. Inflammation stimulates the damaged lining to secrete mucus in an abnormal amount and also causes the airway to constrict (narrow).
What did the latest Lancet study reports?
A special European Respiratory Society issue of The Lancet revealed that 25% (one out of four) individuals aged 35 and over is likely to develop COPD at some stage of their lives. The discoveries indicate that people have a much higher risk of developing COPD than congestive heart failure, acute heart attack, and several common cancers. The conclusions of the study include:
- COPD may be the third most common cause of death worldwide by 2030, a leading cause of hospitalizations, as well as being one of the most expensive chronic diseases.
- 27.6% (one in four chance) was the overall projected...
lifetime risk of being diagnosed with COPD by a physician.
- Men had a higher risk (29.7% almost one in three) developing COPD than women (25.6% one in four).
- The lifetime risk of getting the disease was also increased by lower socioeconomic status and living in a rural area.
In spite of these projections, It is worth noting that in comparison to diseases, such as diabetes, there is little public awareness of COPD and the funding, research and profile is not the same as other diseases with a similar burden. The investigators quoted that:
“COPD had a lifetime risk comparable to diabetes and asthma. Its lifetime risk was about double that of congestive heart failure…three to four times that of acute myocardial infarction, breast cancer [in women], and prostate cancer [in men]…and more than seven times that of other cancers.”
There is no doubt that increasing air pollution and lifestyle preferences like smoking can enhance the prevalence of COPD. The health agencies around the world need to focus effort on patient education, prevention and treatment of COPD to avoid it becoming a epidemic.