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November 20, 2018

Experts warn of respiratory diseases due to changing weather


November 20, 2018

Changes in the weather have exacerbated the conditions of people afflicted with respiratory diseases, especially asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said leading pulmonologists, or chest specialists, on Monday.

They said the patients’ conditions can be controlled by creating awareness, right management and long-term treatment, adding that the patients must ensure compliance and adherence to their prescribed medications.

Dr Javaid A Khan, chair of the National Alliance for Tobacco Control and professor of pulmonology at the Aga Khan University Hospital, said: “Asthma and COPD are two of the most common respiratory diseases in Pakistan, posing a serious challenge.”

Talking about the disease burden, Dr Khan said that according to the World Health Organisation’s estimates, 235 million people worldwide are afflicted with asthma while COPD affects 210 million people around the globe.

In Pakistan over 6.9 million people are afflicted with COPD, which is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the world and is projected to be the third leading cause of death by 2020. More than three million people died of COPD last year alone.

Globally, the COPD burden is projected to increase in the coming decades because of continued exposure to risk factors and the aging of the population. Dr Khan said: “Asthma is a heterogeneous disease, usually characterised by chronic airway inflammation. It is defined by the history of respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that vary over time and in intensity, together with variable expiratory airflow limitation.”

He added that COPD is characterised by “persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lungs”.

Identifying the causes, Dr Nadeem Ahmed Rizvi, professor and head of pulmonology at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College, said: “There is a difference between the causes of asthma and COPD. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways. On the other hand, smoking is the biggest cause of COPD.”

Allergens that trigger asthma include indoor allergens, house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander and outdoor allergens such as pollens and moulds, tobacco smoke, chemical irritants in the workplace, urbanisation and air pollution.

Dr Rizvi suggested that appropriate management can control the disease and enable people to enjoy good quality of life. He urged patients for compliance to controller medications and relievers for the best possible outcomes.

“Factors such as education and skills in order to effectively manage asthma and COPD are crucial. It can be achieved through a partnership between the patient and their health care providers. Similarly, written action plans on how to recognise and respond to these diseases along with regular review by a health care professional is vital to fight them.”

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