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COPD – it’s not only about smoking

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by Dr.Gautam S

November 16th is celebrated as world COPD day through this article let’s shed some light on this silent killer called COPD.

COPD—Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease — permanently damages the airways and air sacs in the lungs. They lose elasticity and cannot “bounce back” into shape after each breath inhaled stretches them to fill with air. The airways can also become swollen or thicker than normal and become blocked or obstructed by increased mucus, making it even harder to exhale. It affects 30 millions lives, and many more cases go undetected , Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease has become the 5th deadliest disease across the globe.

copdSo what causes COPD:

while cigarette smoking and COPD have a strong correlation is an established fact, recent studies have shown that there are numerous other risk factors that trigger the disease in non-smokers. Some of the causes for non smokers COPD are:-

Almost half the population worldwide are exposed to smoke from biomass fuel, used for cooking and heating purposes. Hence, exposure to bio mass is the leading cause of COPD in the rural areas bringing the mortality rates higher in COPD.

Air pollution has also made COPD a major concern in the urban areas. I terms of air pollution, 10 of the most 20 polluted cities in world are from India.

COPD is also a major occupational hazard. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted a survey and found that industries and occupations at increased risk of COPD.

Prolonged exposure to agricultural pesticides (organophosphates and carbamates), which are frequently used in India, has contributed to respiratory problems, decreased lung function and COPD.

A popular product that finds its way in our homes, especially in summers is the ubiquitous mosquito coil. It may shock us to learn that the mosquito coil emits as much smoke as those from 75-100 cigarettes.

COPD comes on gradually and worsens over a number of years. People get so used to living with COPD, they aren’t always aware of their symptoms and how the disease limits their quality of life and ability to do things. You can help by looking and listening for these telltale symptoms:

  1. Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities, such as light housework, taking a walk or even getting dressed.
  2. Excess sputum
  3. Feeling unable to breathe
  4. Not able to take a deep breath
  5. Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough”
  6. Wheezing.


1. If you smoke, stop: It’s critically important for people with COPD to quit smoking.

2. Avoid irritants in the air: Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, air pollution, fumes, dust and other lung irritants.

3. Follow your health care provider’s recommendations: The goals of COPD treatment are to slow disease progression, improve quality of life and increase survival

4. Talk to your health care provider about exercise: Exercise is difficult for people with COPD; however, there are several benefits to staying as physically active as possible

5. Keep a positive attitude: Chronic medical conditions like COPD can take a toll—physically, mentally and emotionally—and have a significant impact on daily life.

COPD cannot be completely cured but with the prompt medications and lifestyle modifications it can help maintain a trouble free life.

About the Author: Dr.Gautam S is an Asstant Prof Dept of Pulmonary Medicine JNMC, Belagavi

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