KARACHI: Widespread tobacco smoking and the use of wood and coal as fuel are the major causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The condition poses a major health hazard but unfortunately remains largely under-diagnosed and under-treated in Pakistan, said experts at a seminar held to commemorate World COPD Day at Aga Khan University (Aga Khan University) with the help of the chair of the National Alliance for Tobacco Control.
Passive smoking and habitual shisha smoking can result in an exponential increase in the number of people suffering from the condition, according to Professor Javaid Khan, the chief of pulmonology at AKU. The use of biomass fuel like wood and coal in cooking is another important cause, especially for women living in the countryside.
He called for clean air laws in the country, similar to the one banning shisha in restaurants, which was passed earlier this year by the Sindh Assembly.
“This condition affects more than 340 million people worldwide,” said Prof. Nadeem Rizvi, the president of the Pakistan Chest Society and the head of department of chest diseases at Jinnah hospital. “It is also one of the leading causes of death.”
Bushra Masood, a smoking-cessation expert from the UK, said that quitting smoking is the best way to prevent the disease. “Unfortunately most patients visit their doctors very late,” she said. “Till then the lungs are already severely damaged.”
Talking about diagnosis, Dr Hashir Majid, assistant professor in the pulmonology section and critical care medicine at AKU, said that the biggest symptom of COPD is a persistent cough with sputum. As the condition advances the person starts to experience shortness of breath even after little exertion. “Treatments are available to prevent further deterioration if it is detected early,” he added. press release
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.
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