New Delhi: World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day is observed on November 17 each year to spread awareness, share knowledge, and discuss ways to reduce the burden of COPD across the world. This year’s theme for the day is “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important” as the world has suffered from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic which can severely damage the lungs of a patient.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide. It is a preventable but progressively worsening and incurable disease which consists of inflammation of the airways and damage to the airspaces that help in the transfer of oxygen into the blood.
“Smoking is the greatest risk factor, however, pollution both indoor and outdoor have been attributed to cause and worsen COPD. Numerous studies have shown a greater decline in lung function when a person with COPD has prolonged exposure to NO2 and particulate matter in the air,” shares Dr Preyas Vaidya Consultant-Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Expert, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital.
Air pollution can exacerbate COPD
Air pollution can prove detrimental for patients suffering from COPD. India is one of the most polluted areas across the world and according to a Greenpeace study, the average concentration of PM2.5 in 2020 in New Delhi was nearly 17 times higher than the recommended levels. In Mumbai, pollution levels were eight times higher, in Kolkata, over nine times higher, and in Chennai, over five times higher.
“Smoking is the greatest risk factor, however, pollution both indoor and outdoor have been attributed to cause and worsen COPD. Numerous studies have shown a greater decline in lung function when a person with COPD has prolonged exposure to NO2 and particulate matter in the air. Exposure to polluted air has been found to cause an increased inflammatory response proven by detecting increased Interleukin-8 (IL-8) in sputum and serum samples of COPD patients,” shares Dr Vaidya.
He further elaborates, “Increase in IL-8 is linked with increased exacerbations of COPD. Increase in hospitalizations of COPD patients due to air pollution exposure has been proven by APHEA, a European body. A meta-analysis by Zhu and colleagues showed a 2.7 percent increase in COPD hospitalizations with a 10 mcg/cubic metre daily rise in PM10. Indoor air pollution due to biomass fuel smoke exposure has been shown to cause COPD in many studies from developing countries.”
Winter season can exacerbate COPD
A change in the weather and temperature can cause an exacerbation in patients with COPD. Exposure to cold air can cause bronchospasm. Cold air can cause dryness of the airway lining and irritation, leading to worsening of symptoms.
“People with COPD should take all the precautions to protect themselves from cold-like wearing clothes in layers with full sleeves. Wear socks to keep your foot covered. Always step out only after covering the nose and mouth with a mask or fresh cloth. Common colds and flu that are on the rise in the winter can be detrimental to people with COPD. Avoid contact with sick people,” advices Dr. Chetan Rao Vaddepally,Consultant Pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad.
Precautions to manage COPD
COPD is a treatable disease. The treatment plans revolve around alleviating symptoms, reducing the rate of lung function decline, improving quality of life, and preventing exacerbations. Below are some tips by Dr Vaidya to manage COPD.
- Get a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) or Spirometry yearly to know the severity and the appropriate treatment plan
- Stick to the treatment plan and know the correct methodology to take inhaled medicines
- Get vaccinated against Streptococcus Pneumonia, flu, and SARS-COV-2 virus
- Do moderate exercise and consume appropriate proteins in the diet
- Avoid outdoor activities before sunrise to reduce exposure to pollutants in the air
- Keep a check on blood pressure, sugars, and heart function with regular check-ups
- Watch for worsening of symptoms and seek medical help early