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Smoking increases risk of COPD

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Dr Nevin Kishore
Being one of the most common lung diseases seen world over, yet COPD is ironically a completely preventable ailment. Despite talking about the advanced treatment modalities, the best way of preventing this disease is smoking cessation altogether.
While the air quality across the Delhi region has turned hazardous, which may trigger attacks of COPD and other respiratory ailments during this time, chain smokers are highly susceptible to this condition all time round the year.
In this condition, the lungs become weaker, which is prominently seen in chronic smokers. People who smoke cause irreversible damage to their lungs and this damage happens at various levels starting from the main tube known as bronchi further damaging the alveoli (small sacs where exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs). In patients with COPD, these alveoli get irreversibly destroyed, and over a period of time this irreversible destruction leads to a gradual increase in damage to the lungs and the symptoms.
Usually, patients with COPD visit the doctor with complaints of breathlessness, cough, mucus production, wheezing sound, inability to climb steps, or run fast, getting breathless on mild exertion, and often their oxygen levels when measured are lower than normal. As the disease progresses, they get crippled with the disease and would require continuous and long-term oxygen at home.
For diagnosing this condition various tests may be required such as – X-ray of the chest, CT of the lungs and lung function test. Out of all the above diagnostics, the lung function test is the most important. Being a computerized test, this assesses and compares the lung function of the patient to the normal levels in accordance with their age and height. This is a very useful test in evaluating the extent of damage done to the lungs.
Once the diagnosis is established through these tests, the patient is started on medications, and the most important being the inhalers, which aims to decrease the damage already caused, where although most of the damage is irreversible. Other tablets and medications are also prescribed in order to improve the lung function for these patients.
Despite being a life-threatening disease, there is treatment available in modern medicine and if the patient makes an effort, and adapts to active pulmonary rehabilitation, physiotherapy, yoga, breathing exercises and a good diet, the progression of this disease can be controlled and treated efficiently for a better quality of life.
Doctors also took this opportunity to sensitize the public to quit smoking today and try to avoid exposure to any sort of smoke, be it active or passive smoking, chulha smoke, pollutants, exposure to industrial toxic fumes, in order to combat against this deadly ailment. There is a dire need for the people to be aware of the symptoms and if one is seen with such symptoms, they need to be immediately directed towards the diagnosis in order to rule out the condition or follow an early treatment regime as advised.
(The author is Head – Bronchoscopy & senior Consultant, Department of respiratory medicine, Max Hospital, Gurugram)

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