Exposure to tobacco smoke is the main cause of this disease.
Courtesy | On many occasions, people need oxygen to breathe normally
For patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), making a little physical effort translates into fatigue and drowning, greatly reducing their quality of life.
At the age of 79, María Beatriz Gonzales was admitted to the hospital after suffering a fall, within the medical tests carried out, Epoc was diagnosed.
The septuagenarian had been an active smoker since she was 15 years old, this bad habit left serious consequences on her lungs and it is increasingly difficult for her to breathe.
Her family was shocked by the diagnosis that revealed that she had little time left to live. As for María, the advanced memory loss she suffers from Alzheimer’s did not allow her to assimilate what was happening.
He is currently 84 years old and his health is delicate, he is in the care of his children who with love and dedication do everything possible to alleviate his discomfort.
COPD is the most important respiratory problem for the World Health Organization and places it in 4th place in causes of death in the world.
COPD is common around the world, especially in places where tobacco use is common.
It is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstruction of the airflow in the lungs and is life threatening.
The two most common conditions that contribute to COPD are emphysema and bronchitis, they usually occur together and their severity varies according to the patient.
Symptoms usually do not appear until a significant lung damageTherefore, most diagnoses occur after 40 or 50 years of age.
Shortness of breath when doing physical activity, wheezing, chest tightness, chronic cough that can produce mucus, frequent respiratory infections and lack of energy are some of them.
Julio Espinoza, 64 years old, began to smoke during his adolescence and as time progressed the number of cigarettes increased, consuming a full pack a day.
Of course the ravages of that practice began to show itself; even walking was challenging, as the tiredness and coughing appeared almost immediately.
He went to the doctor in search of a solution for his symptoms and was surprised to learn that he had COPD, a disease that he had never heard of and that would now be part of his life.
Quitting has not been an easy task, at times, he is tempted, but tries to stay out of it to improve his diagnosis.
José Rizzo, pulmonologist, explains that the most common cause is tobacco consumption, both for active and passive smokers, but it can also occur to a lesser degree due to prolonged exposure to smoke from burning garbage or cooking on firewood.
The WHO highlights as risk factors; occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals (fumes, irritants, and gases), outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution, and repeated lower respiratory infections in childhood.
Diagnosis and treatment
It is necessary to know that many cases of COPD are preventable (avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke or other risk factors) and although it is a non-curable disease, drug treatment and physical therapy can alleviate the symptoms.
Rizzo explains the importance of everyone who is a smoker or lives with a smoker to be alert to the appearance of the aforementioned symptoms and attend the medical check-up, because the earlier the disease is detected, the better the prognosis.
The diagnostic test called spirometry measures the amount of air a person’s lungs can hold and the rate of inhalations and exhalations during breathing.
The prevention, most effective and least expensive treatment is to stop smoking, this delays the disease, alleviates the symptoms and decreases the probability of death.
In some cases, treatment with inhaled corticosteroids is also beneficial.
Many people with this disease need extra oxygen to treat some crises.
Extreme measures against covid-19
The arrival of the covid-19 pandemic turned Epoc patients into more than vulnerable patients.
They are people who already have damaged lungs, so any type of virus can be fatal.
Staying home and always wearing a mask is essential to create a protective shield.
Even more so if you have to go shopping or go to the doctor. Not touching surfaces and constantly disinfecting hands is mandatory.
Epoc in Latin America
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, the prevalence of COPD in 2016 was 251 million cases.
The WHO estimates that in 2015 about 3.17 million people died from this cause worldwide, which represents 5% of all deaths recorded that year and that more than 90% of deaths from this cause occur in low- and middle-income countries.
In 2005, the first data on the prevalence of COPD in Latin America were published, from the Latin American Project for Research on Pulmonary Obstruction (Platinum).
The five Latin American cities studied (São Paulo, Mexico City, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Caracas) indicated a prevalence of Epoc between 7.8% and 19.7% in the population aged 40 years and over.
At that time, other data from Platino indicated that COPD is frequently underdiagnosed (89%), incorrectly diagnosed (63%) and under-treated, since only a quarter of patients receive treatment.
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