KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 – Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with substantial humanistic and socioeconomic burden on patients and the society. It has risen to be one of the top three causes of death worldwide; 90 per cent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Although it is preventable and treatable, it is still a major cause of disability and death throughout the world.
COPD is characterised by persistent respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms are brought about by disease to the airway and the lungs that are usually caused by exposure to noxious particles and gasses.
Smoking is the primary risk factor, while others include environmental pollution, exposures to occupational hazards, and burning of fossil/ wood-based fuels.
World COPD day is observed on every third Wednesday of November and this year, it falls on November 16, 2022. The theme for this year, “Your Lungs for Life”, aims to highlight the importance of educating the public about the risks associated with COPD to promote lifelong lung health and to protect vulnerable populations.
The rise in smoking, urbanisation, industrialisation, environmental pollutants and an ageing population is resulting in a marked increase in the number of COPD cases. It currently affects more than 10 per cent of the world’s population and is responsible for three million deaths annually.
A high prevalence of smoking among the Malaysian adult population means that they are at a higher risk for developing COPD. This causes a huge economic burden on our health care as COPD is the fourth leading cause of hospitalisation in Malaysia.
In 2010 alone, 448,000 cases were reported with an estimated treatment cost of a staggering RM2.8 billion.
Most of the admissions are due to sudden attacks of breathlessness (acute exacerbations). On top of that, individuals with COPD are also at risk to develop other associated medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation), lung cancer, depression, and anxiety. Treatments of these conditions further add to the economic burden of COPD.
In conjunction with World COPD Day, the Pulmonology Department of Serdang Hospital, a Ministry of Health facility in Selangor, organised an open event at the main lobby of Serdang Hospital, where booths were set up that display the services and treatments provided with emphasis on educating the public as well as health care workers, regarding COPD, including the treatments available.
The event featured booths from the rehabilitation department and pharmacy to give the public a unique insight into the various treatment options available, from medications to various therapies provided.
Prevention is always key when it comes to treatment and prevention of COPD. Smoking cessation is of utmost importance not only for those suffering from COPD, but the general public as well.
Access to the latest treatments is limited in most low- and moderate-income countries due to the cost factor, so prevention goes a long way.
Pulmonary rehabilitation can also be offered to patients with COPD to enhance their self-care ability and to help them stay as active as possible within safe limits of their capabilities.
It is a programme that helps introduce and gradually increase a patient’s level of exercise in order to improve breathing and ability to perform daily or recreational activities and live a fulfilling life.
If a patient fails to improve with medications and pulmonary rehabilitation, more invasive treatments like bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR), i.e. inserting one-way valves into the airways, can be done for selected COPD patients with emphysema phenotype, and in certain cases, they can be evaluated for lung transplant.
BLVR is offered at Serdang Hospital, while lung transplant assessment is done by the hospital’s Lung Transplant Unit. The lung transplant surgery is done at Institut Jantung Negara (IJN).
The World COPD day event aims to highlight the serious burden of COPD not only to patients, but to their family and the economy.
Knowing the risks associated with the development of COPD brings to light the importance of public education regarding the dangers of smoking, environmental protection and adequate protective gear in working environments with high rates of exposure to noxious substances.