KUALA LUMPUR, November 23 – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is associated with a significant humanistic and socio-economic burden on patients and society. It has become one of the top three causes of death worldwide; 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Although preventable and treatable, it remains a leading cause of disability and death worldwide.
COPD is characterized by persistent respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms are caused by a disease of the airways and lungs which is usually caused by exposure to harmful particles and gases.
Smoking is the main risk factor, while others include environmental pollution, exposure to occupational hazards, and the burning of fossil/wood-based fuels.
World COPD Day is observed every third Wednesday of November and this year falls on November 16, 2022. This year’s theme, “Your Lungs for Life”, aims to highlight the importance of educating the public on the risks associated with COPD to promote lifelong lung health and protect vulnerable populations.
The increase in smoking, urbanization, industrialization, environmental pollutants and an aging population are resulting in a marked increase in the number of COPD cases. It currently affects more than 10% of the world’s population and is responsible for three million deaths per year.
A high prevalence of smoking among the Malaysian adult population means they are at a higher risk of developing COPD. This places a huge economic burden on our healthcare as COPD is the fourth leading cause of hospitalization in Malaysia.
In 2010 alone, 448,000 cases were reported with an estimated treatment cost of RM2.8 billion.
Most admissions are due to sudden attacks of breathlessness (acute exacerbations). In addition to this, people with COPD are also at risk of developing other associated medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), lung cancer, depression, and anxiety. Treatments for these conditions further add to the economic burden of COPD.
Along with World COPD Day, the Pneumology Department of Serdang Hospital, a Ministry of Health facility in Selangor, held an open event in the main hall of Serdang Hospital, where stalls were displayed. were set up to showcase the services and treatments provided with an emphasis on education. the public as well as healthcare workers, about COPD, including available treatments.
The event featured booths from the rehabilitation department and pharmacy to give the public a unique insight into the various treatment options available, from medications to the various therapies provided.
Prevention is always key when it comes to COPD treatment and prevention. Quitting smoking is of critical importance not only for people with COPD, but also for the general public.
Access to the latest treatments is limited in most low- and middle-income countries due to the cost factor, so prevention goes a long way.
Pulmonary rehabilitation may also be offered to patients with COPD to improve their ability to care for themselves and to help them stay as active as possible within the safe limits of their abilities.
It is a program that helps introduce and gradually increase a patient’s level of exercise to improve their breathing and ability to perform daily or recreational activities and live a fulfilling life.
If a patient does not improve with medication and pulmonary rehabilitation, more invasive treatments like bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR), that is, the insertion of one-way valves into the airways, may be performed for some COPD patients with an emphysema phenotype, and in some cases they may be evaluated for lung transplantation.
BLVR is offered at Serdang Hospital, while Lung Transplant Assessment is carried out by the Lung Transplant Unit of the hospital. Lung transplant surgery is performed at Jantung Negara Institute (IJN).
The World COPD Day event aims to highlight the heavy burden of COPD not only on patients, but also on their families and the economy.
Knowing the risks associated with the development of COPD highlights the importance of public education regarding the dangers of smoking, environmental protection, and proper protective equipment in work environments with high rates of exposure to harmful substances.