New Delhi: If you find it unusually hard to breathe during exercise or just after taking a flight of stairs, better get screened for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease, suggest doctors.
COPD is a common lung disease caused by tobacco, smoking and exposure to industrial pollution, fumes and other environmental pollutants.
Vastly under diagnosed, COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, the World Health Organisation predicts.
"If you are above 35 years of age and live or work in areas where there is smoke, noxious gas/fumes, ask your doctor for simple screening test to rule out COPD," said J.C. Suri, chest physician at Safdarjung Hospital here.
Due to common tobacco and smoking habit in people and environment pollution, COPD causes four times more deaths in metro cities of India as compared to the US and Europe, Suri pointed out.
After pollution, lack of awareness about this condition is the major reason for increased risk of COPD deaths.
Studies indicate that 25-50 percent of people with clinically significant COPD do not even know they have it. That is because the early stages of COPD are often unrecognised.
"The early symptoms of COPD are chronic cough, bringing up sputum, and breathlessness during physical activity such as exercise or walking up a flight of stairs," Suri said.
He pointed out that people might discount these symptoms as a normal part of getting older, but they can be signs of a serious disease that needs treatment. Therefore it should not be neglected.
Moreover, both asthma and COPD patients have common complaints of difficulty in breathing. Therefore, this lung disease is often detected when it reaches an advanced stage or attacks the lungs.
Lung attack becomes a life threatening condition for the patient, Suri informed.
He explained that there are now simple tools available for early screening of symptomatic COPD patients.
In six seconds, doctors can either rule out COPD or evaluate with further tests to confirm COPD. The earlier COPD is detected, the more effective treatment can be, Suri said.
In a recent study, published in the journal Chest, researchers from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here found that yoga exercises provide improvements that are just as effective as traditional pulmonary rehabilitation methods in improving lung function of patients with COPD.