MANILA, Philippines - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the disease that have afflicted comedy king Dolphy for years, is currently the fifth leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is predicted to be the third leading cause of death by 2030, if efforts to reduce smoking, its chief cause, remain undeterred.
“COPD develops slowly and can worsen over time,” said Dr. Tomas Realiza, board member and vice president of the Philippine College of Pharmaceutical Medicine and board member of the Philippine Cancer Society, Inc.
Realiza, along with Dr. Teresita De Guia of the Philippine Heart Center and Prof. Neil Barnes of the London Chest Hospital, were the guest speakers in Friday’s COPD Awareness campaign of pharmaceutical company Takeda.
Takeda is the company behind Roflumilast, a tablet that helps treat lung inflammation, the underlying cause of COPD.
What is COPD?
Realiza explained that COPD is a lung disease wherein breathing is severely restricted because of lung damage and inflammation. He added that not all chronic bronchitis and emphysema can cause blocked airways.
“People suffering from COPD have persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with chronic inflammation in the airways and the lungs due to noxious pollutants or gases,” he said.
A survey conducted by the Epidemiology and Impact of COPD in Asia (EPIC Asia) showed that 62 percent of respondents from the Philippines who were employed full-time were unable to work because of their condition.
Around 70 percent of them missed days at work because of their COPD condition during the last 12 months.
Severe COPD can lead to a lung attack.
Patients have reported that a COPD lung attack can be as terrifying and bewildering as a heart attack, according to the British Lung Foundation.
“COPD is an epidemic time bomb and a growing concern in the Philippines,” De Guia said.
COPD lung attacks are associated with increased airway and systemic inflammation and physiological changes in the lungs.
“These attacks could be triggered by an infection or a common cold,” De Guia said.
According to Barnes, COPD kills as many women as breast cancer does in the United Kingdom.
Smoking is leading cause of COPD
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD in developing countries, while pollution is a major cause in some parts of the world.
According to Realiza, cigarette smoking as well as the use of firewood for cooking and being exposed to “siga” (smoke) while working on a farm are the major risk factors among Filipinos.
“It’s not just the amount you smoke, but how long you have been smoking that increases your risk to COPD,” Barnes said, adding that 40 percent of smokers will likely develop COPD as they get older.
Aside from smoking cessation, Barnes advised pulmonary rehabilitation and flu vaccination to help reduce the risk of developing COPD.