However, recent studies indicate that 25% to 50% of people with clinically significant COPD do not realize they even have it. “That is because the early stages of COPD are often unrecognised,” says consultant pulmonologist at SIMS Dr A Suresh.
The early symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are chronic cough, bringing up sputum, and breathlessness during physical activity such as exercise or walking up a flight of stairs.
“However people might discount these symptoms as a normal part of aging but they can be signs of a disease that needs treatment,” he said.
COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Around 15 million people suffer from the disease in India. “COPD causes four times more deaths in India compared to US and Europe. This is mainly due to lack of awareness,” said director of Chest Research Institute Dr Bala Murugan With both asthma and COPD patients manifesting common symptoms doctors say differential diagnosis is crucial. “There are challenges in diagnosi ng COPD early in resource poor setting in India. Most patients go to doctors at an advanced stage when the chances of lung attack are high making it difficult to treat,” said Dr Suresh.
Experts say now there are simple tools available for early screening of symptomatic COPD patients. “The earlier COPD is detected, the more effective treatment can be,” says Dr Suresh. Although there is no cure for COPD, treat ments are available that alleviate symptoms so that patients can participate more fully in daily life.