27 November 2016:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is a progressive lung disease that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe.
The condition mostly occurs in those aged 40 years and above, and is mainly caused by smoking and smog in the atmosphere.
Common symptoms are breathlessness (a “need” for air), excessive phlegm production, as well as chronic cough.
Every year, World COPD Day is commemorated on Nov 16, and it is held to increase awareness of this condition and improving care for patients in every corner of the globe.
The first World COPD Day was held in 2002.
Each year, GOLD (Global Initia-tive for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) promotes the event by choosing a theme and sending out materials to healthcare professionals, people from the education sector and members of the public.
This year’s theme for World COPD Day is Breathe in the knowledge.
It is estimated that 500,000 Malaysians have COPD, and many of them are suffering in silence.
Patients often misread their increased breathlessness and coughing as symptoms of asthma, or even as “smoker’s cough”.
Others may mistakenly assume the symptoms are signs of ageing.
Many cases also go unnoticed as COPD can develop for years without any noticeable shortness of breath.
The lack of awareness of the disease contributes as well to late diagnosis.
In Malaysia, COPD is ranked fifth in terms of disease burden, and this is reflected in hospital admission rates for COPD attacks.
At times, people who live with COPD experience acute exacerbations – an episode where breathing gets worse than usual.
In some cases, patients might need to be admitted to the hospital.
In order to prevent the disease from progressing further, it is crucial that we recognise the early warning signs and seek early treatment.
“Over the years, there have been many educational initiatives around COPD, yet there are still many undiagnosed COPD cases in Malaysia.
“There is a need to heighten awareness and increase the number of educational programmes to facilitate early detection and better management of COPD.
“Hence, the Lung Foundation of Malaysia (LFM) is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to launch patient educational materials that are simple to read and understand, in the hope of increasing early detection and diagnosis,” said LFM chairman and internal and respiratory medicine consultant Datuk Dr Zainudin Md Zin.
LFM is a non-profit foundation that is committed towards the improvement of the standard of care and treatment of patients with lung disease.
The prevalence of tobacco smoking and air pollution continue to contribute to incidences of COPD.
In recent years, COPD affected men and women almost equally due to the increase in tobacco use among women.
While there is no cure for COPD, progression of the disease may be delayed with smoking cessation and avoiding exposure to other noxious agents.
“As we know, the main cause of COPD is smoking, but it is not easy for smokers to give up their habit.
“There is no cure for COPD; therefore, to manage their condition, smokers must quit smoking.
“This is to prevent their lung from suffering irreversible damage.
“It is important to educate them about the damage that smoking can cause to their health and support them in their journey of quitting,” said LFM trustee Datuk Dr Aziah Ahmad Mahayiddin.
The COPD patient education materials, including a patient booklet, disease poster and flipchart, will be made available in hospitals and clinics.
The aim is to enhance patient understanding on COPD and enable physicians to advise their patients on how to recognise COPD symptoms and best manage their condition.