Alert for non-smoking Chennaiites as COPD on rise pan-India

Chennai: If you feel smoking is a way to show you are a post-modern, uber cool lad or believe a mere pack of ciggies can take away your pain, it is time you read between the lines and understood that you are going to be a victim of growing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) condition.

On World COPD Awareness Day being observed today, experts in the city have observed a gradual increase in the complaints pan-India and Chennai is no exception.

The disease is caused due to inhalation of harmful particulate matter and prolonged exposure to them leads to irritability in the airway. The doctor states the initial symptoms of COPD can be related to minor infections.


“Though there has not been any statistical study, there has been consistent rise in COPD, affecting women and non-smoking category of the population predominantly in southeast Asia, including India. Still researches are under way to identify the volume of exposure to fossil fuel and other particulate matter,” says Fortis Malar Hospital consultant pulmonologist, Dr Prasanna Kumar Thomas.

He states that the condition is common among smokers. “It has been proven that at least 25 per cent of the smoking populace develops COPD,” opines Dr Prasanna.

In the West, classic COPD, caused due to smoking, is common as they have effective mechanisms to control fossil fuel emissions from vehicles.

“While diagnosing the condition through spirometry, the procedure assesses the reversibility whereas asthma is characterised by the presence of reversibility,” states the doctor.

If a patient is diagnosed with COPD, it has to be understood that the function of lungs invariably goes down. It is not a reversible condition and there are measures which will assist in the functioning of lungs.

However, in patients found to be smoking excessively, it can be reversed if s/he quits smoking. But in non-smokers it is still unsure how to bring the condition to normal level, he adds.

Representative image


The treatment to the disease can either be pharmacological or non-pharmacological therapy. Pharmacological therapy involves administering medicines and vaccines and the other is managing the condition without medication. It is a safe and clinically-approved form of treatment.

“Non-pharmacological therapy involves exercising, balancing nutrition, thumping or pulmonary rehabilitation, domiciliary oxygenation and non-invasive ventilation,” says the doctor.

In 2017, there was a direction on stopping sale of BS-III vehicles that emit pollutants more than BS-IV grade. As vehicular pollution is indirectly linked to environmental pollution, the doctor states that it has certainly led to rise in COPD cases reported in the country.


Studies show that COPD is not a genetic disease but also suggest that it may be caused due to other hereditary maladies.

Speaking about it, Fortis Malar Hospital consultant pulmonologist, Dr Prasanna Kumar Thomas, says, “Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency is a type of genetic lung disease that is not very common in Asia or in the Aryan or Dravidian race. It is a congenital case that is rising in the West. The downside of the deficiency is that it leads to development of COPD very quickly. There are also other conditions like cystic fibrosis that are not directly related to COPD, but genetically transferable.”


* Progressive breathlessness
* Repeated infections such as common cold, cough, fever
* Recurring fatigue

Bhavani Prabhakar