KOCHI: Underdiagnosis and non-adherence to treatment are contributing significantly to the rising number of asthma cases in the state. Global population-based studies estimate that around 20 to 70% of patients with asthma remain undiagnosed and hence untreated.
The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study says India is home to over 30 million asthmatics, accounting for 13.09% of the global burden. India accounts for over 42% of all global asthma deaths.Lack of disease awareness, poor adherence to inhalation therapy, illiteracy, poverty, and social stigma are factors directly affecting these numbers. Patients often overlook their early symptoms, which eventually lands them in a more critical state. According to the Global Asthma Network (GAN) study, 82% of patients with early symptoms and 70% of patients with severe asthma remain undiagnosed in India.
Addressing the social stigma toward asthma is very important. “When a patient consults a doctor, only 71% of doctors diagnose them as asthmatic while around 29% choose to use other terminologies. Also, only 23% of asthmatic patients call their disease asthma. Patients also barely adhere to medication and mostly take symptom-driven treatment,” said Dr Paramez A R, consultant pulmonologist, Lisie Hospital, Kochi.
“The stigma forces many patients to hide their disease. Only when the symptoms aggravate, do they consult a physician and take the prescribed medication,” said Dr Hari Lakshmanan P, consultant pulmonologist, Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi. He added that many patients discontinue using inhalers once they feel better. “This often leads to a flare-up of symptoms which can worsen the condition of the patient,” he said.
What is Asthma?
Asthma, is a chronic respiratory disease that causes difficulty in breathing, chest pain, cough, and wheezing. The disease affects the airways of the lungs, causing chronic inflammation, which makes the airways more sensitive to triggers.