KARACHI - Changes in weather have triggered suffering of asthma and COPD patients which can be controlled by creating awareness, right management and long-term treatment. Patients must ensure compliance and adherence to prescribed medication, said leading pulmonologists.

Professor of Pulmonology at Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Javaid A Khan said: “Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are two of the most common respiratory diseases in Pakistan, posing a serious challenge.”

Highlighting disease burden, Dr Javaid said that according to WHO estimates, 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide while COPD is affecting 210 million people worldwide. In Pakistan only more than 6.9 million people suffer from COPD. COPD is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the world and is projected to be the 3rd leading cause of death by 2020. Only last year, more than 3 million people died of COPD.

Globally, the COPD burden is projected to increase in coming decades because of continued exposure to COPD risk factors and aging of the population.

Dr Javaid said, “Asthma is a heterogeneous disease, usually characterised by chronic airway inflammation. It is defined by the history of respiratory symptoms such as wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that vary over time and in intensity, together with variable expiratory airflow limitation”.

Whereas, “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,” he added.

Identifying the causes, Dr Nadeem Ahmed Rizvi, Professor and Head of Pulmonology at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College said: “There is a difference between 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,” added Dr Nadeem.

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 tobacco smoke, chemical irritants in the workplace, urbanisation and air pollution.

He suggests that appropriate management can control the disease and enable people to enjoy good quality of life. They urged patients on compliance of controller medication and relievers for best 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 healthcare professional is vital to fight them,” he concluded.