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8 things every one should know about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe a group of lung diseases which includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. The main symptom that patients suffering from COPD complain about is breathlessness and coughing. COPD can, however, develop over the years without any noticeable symptoms. But symptoms which appear later include tightness in the chest, persistent cough and wheezing other than breathlessness.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally around 65 million people suffer from moderate to severe COPD. Out of this, 3 million succumbed to COPD in 2005 and experts estimate that by 2030 it will be the third most common cause of deaths.

Going by these shocking figures, lack of awareness about COPD in India is a major hurdle in bringing down morbidity caused by COPD. Many Indians are completely unaware about COPD and how it can affect their health in the long run. When it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss. So here’s all that you need to know about COPD in India.

1. Studies estimate that nearly 30 million Indians suffer from COPD

Over the years, there have been several studies conducted in different parts of the country to figure out how many Indians are living with COPD. A 2012 study in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India says that crude estimates suggest there are 30 million COPD patients in India [1]. However, so far the prevalence estimates of COPD by experts are not completely accurate. In another study conducted in 2013, ‘Indian Study of Asthma, Respiratory Symptoms and Chronic Bronchitis’ that included 85,105 men and 84,470 women from 12 urban and 11 rural sites estimated that the national burden is 14.84 million [1].

2. Biomass smoke and mosquito coils are major risk factors for COPD in India

The sad truth is that despite how fast cities are growing in India, 70% of the homes in rural and urban areas still use biomass fuel for cooking and heating purposes in poorly ventilated kitchens [1]. In fact, studies have found that 90% of rural households and 32% of urban households still cook their meals on a biomass stove. As only 25% of cooking is done with cleaner gases in India, exposure to biomass smoke is a major risk factor for COPD in the country.

However, just because you use LPG gas for cooking purposes, it does not mean you are safe from COPD. Another source of exposure in Indian houses is mosquito coils. In fact burning even one mosquito coil in the night to get rid of mosquitoes is capable of emitting particulate matter equivalent to around 100 cigarettes [1]. Switch to mosquito repellent lotions or other eco-friendly measures to keep your lungs healthy.

3. Bidi smokers are at the highest risk of COPD

It’s a known fact that smokers are at a far greater risk of suffering from lung diseases as compared to non-smokers. Doctors say that smokers are thrice as likely at the risk of developing COPD. However, bidi smokers were at a much higher risk of developing COPD (8.2%) as compared to those who smoke cigarettes (5.9%) [2].

4. Men are far more prone to COPD

As per data collected in various studies across the world, more men suffer from COPD as compared to women. For instance, the Global Burden of Disease study in 1996 predicted the global prevalence of COPD to be 9.34 per 1,000 for males and 7.33 per 1,000 for females of all ages [2]. A 2001 study published in the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences reported that the prevalence among men ranged from 2% to 22% and 1.2% to 19% in women [2].

5. You could suffer from COPD even if you’re a non-smoker

Just because you don’t smoke, it doesn’t mean you are completely safe from COPD. A 2012 study of 12,000 slum dwellers from Pune revealed that of the patients who were diagnosed with COPD, 69% were never smokers [2]. The doctors also observed that the prevalence rate of COPD was 8.5% in men and 4.5% in women.

6. COPD patients are at an increased risk of tuberculosis and vice versa

Studies have found that COPD patients are at a higher risk of developing active TB compared to the general population [3]. This is because COPD and TB have common risk factors like smoking and poor living conditions.

7. COPD patients could suffer from depression

Other than tuberculosis, COPD patients are also prone to depressive symptoms. A study published in the journal Chest in 2016 reported that one in four patients with COPD also suffer from depression. If depression goes undiagnosed in these COPD patients, it can reduce the effectiveness of their treatment. Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas found that 22.3% of patients had one or more psychological disorders.

8. Yoga and walking can benefit patients with COPD

If you’re a COPD patient, you can reduce the risk of hospitalisation and improve the overall quality of your life by walking three to six kilometres a day. The study was published in the journal Respirology in 2016. Another study found that practising yoga can help COPD patients.


[1] Koul PA. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Indian guidelines and the road ahead. Lung India : Official Organ of Indian Chest Society. 2013;30(3):175-177. doi:10.4103/0970-2113.116233.

[2] Bhome AB. COPD in India: Iceberg or volcano? Journal of Thoracic Disease. 2012;4(3):298-309. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2012.03.15.

[3] COPD and the Risk of Tuberculosis – A Population-Based Cohort Study. Malin Inghammar ,Anders Ekbom, Gunnar Engström, Bengt Ljungberg, Victoria Romanus, Claes-Göran Löfdahl, Arne Egesten

Image Source: Shutterstock


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