Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disabling disorder which progressively impairs the lung functions turning an individual as a total respiratory cripple. In later stages, the patient becomes completely bed ridden with severe breathlessness and respiratory failure. COPD is traditionally a disease of men with a prevalence of about 5 percent amongst adults in India. More women are now diagnosed with this illness with prevalence of about 3 percent.
Globally, COPD is expected to become the 3rd leading cause of death and 5th leading cause of loss of ability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) by 2020. As per our recent estimates, the overall burden of chronic bronchitis is likely to exceed 15 million patients amongst both men and women of over 35 years of age. This constitutes more than 10 percent of the global burden. It also poses an enormous fiscal burden on the patient’s families and the health-care system. In an earlier estimate, the total costs of treatment in 2011 amounted to over 35000 crores, likely to exceed 48000 crores by 2016. It was also found that a patient of COPD spent about 30 percent of his income on disease management.
Smokers tend to have 3 to 5 times higher odds of developing COPD than nonsmokers. Second hand smoking defined as the passive exposure to tobacco smoking from others, and exposure to smoke from combustion of solid fuels (dried wood, dung and crop residue), are other important risk factors amongst nonsmoker women.
COPD is potentially preventable by avoidance of personal and passive smoking exposure. It is rather unfortunate that there is increased occurrence of smoking amongst women. Although smoking of any duration adversely affects the lung function, the disease gets established after 10 years or more of smoking. Reduction of the indoor household pollution from smokers of all kinds is another necessary step for prevention.