Islamabad is the asthma capital of the country, with 5 per cent of adults suffering from the disease. This was said at a seminar “Asthma Management, Today and Tomorrow”, held at a local hotel on Thursday.
Professor Andrew Greening, respiratory specialist from England, Dr Aftab Akhtar consultant pulmonologist from Shifa International Hospital, Professor Mukhtiar Zaman, Head of Pulmonology Department at Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar, along with a large number of doctors and medical students from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Abbottabad, Peshawar and surrounding areas attended the event.
The participants believed that the prevalence of mulberry trees is the main reason for high occurrence of the disease in Islamabad. The other two cities with a high rate of asthma are Multan and Bahawalpur.
They also expressed their concern over the lack of statistics available on asthma patients. They said environmental pollution, excessive smoking and use of sheesha as the major reasons behind its rise.
“Currently 40 per cent of men in Pakistan smoke, which in near future will bring the country among the top smoke-consumer in the world,” said Professor Greening. He added that in addition to giving treatment to their patients, doctors had the added responsibility of urging them to quit smoking.
Greening said asthma was a chronic disease and required a longer period of treatment. “But unfortunately in Pakistan this turns out to be very costly for the patients,” he said.
The disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Asthma attacks are episodic and involve wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. However, according to the health experts, most patients can achieve good control over it.
Common triggers for an asthma attack are exposure to allergens such as house dust, animals with fur, pollens and moulds, occupational irritants, tobacco smoke, respiratory infections, exercise, strong emotional expressions, chemical irritants and drugs such as aspirin and beta blockers (up to 28 per cent of adult patients suffer from asthma attacks in response to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Severe asthma attacks, doctors said, may be life threatening and patients should be rushed to a hospital for adequate treatment.
Asthma patients must be careful during pregnancy and must ensure that they do not discontinue the use of medication without first consulting their doctor. The risk to the foetus due to asthma medication, in most cases, is much less than a severe asthma attack.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2011.