Impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in South Africa

Impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in South Africa

According to the UCT Lung Institute at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the 3rd most common medical condition that is under-recognized and undertreated. There are over 75 million people around the world that are estimated to have mild to severe COPD, and this rapidly growing disease accounts for over 4 million deaths. Despite the staggering rise of new cases, conditions like non-smoking related

COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema remain misunderstood and often misdiagnosed especially for many South African women.

COPD stage classifications are based on severity levels established by the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). COPD stages are classified by using a test called spirometry and are separated into four stages; mild, moderate, severe and very severe.

Spirometry is a machine (also known as Pulmonary Function Test-PFT) and used to measure forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) test result. If you have a test result FEV1 of 100%, it means your lungs are healthy.

COPD Stage I is mild COPD

In this stage, your forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) test maybe 80% or higher than 80%. This test result indicates mild airflow limitation. Generally, patients have a constant cough and mucus from the lungs. These are common symptoms of mild COPD. In the mild COPD, the patient may not be aware that airflow is limited.

COPD Stages II: Moderate COPD

In COPD Stage II, the symptom is also a constant cough with a lot of sputum. Patients have shortness of breath (especially with exercise). Moderate COPD symptoms are worse than mild COPD. Lung function FEV1 test result is between 50% and 79% of typical values.

COPD Stages III: Severe COPD

COPD Stage III typically involves severe restraint of respiration, the tininess of breath and frequently COPD exacerbations. Lung function FEV1 levels would be restricted in 30% to 50% interval. Moreover, there would a significantly decrease in physical activity associated with tiredness character. If the patient is severe COPD, they may probably undergo with recurring and occasionally COPD inflammations. One of the common symptoms could be the continuous cough associated with a high amount of mucus.

COPD Stages IV: Very Severe COPD

COPD Stage IV become very severe and risky, and, thus decreases the life quality with vital COPD exacerbations. Lung function FEV1 levels might lower that than 30%.  If chronic respiratory failure is seen which is frequently seen in these patients, FEV1 level might be lower than 50% and associated with severe heart problems such as pulmonary heart disease. One of the frequent symptoms might be the continuous cough associated with a high amount of mucus. Generally, at this stage, advanced COPD symptoms become the critical issue, and by the time, stage IV is reached, weight loss, blue skin color, edema in the feet and legs, and severe tininess of breath would be detected. Also, COPD lung tissue inflammations become life-threatening at this stage of COPD.


Spirometric Categorization (with Spirometry)

Typically, lung capacity decreases for every ten years about 5 percent after the age of thirty-five. Therefore optimum values of FVC and FEV is dependent on several factors such as age, height, sex, and race. It has seen that Caucasians, men or taller people would get higher lung function values. In addition, it is accepted that a higher than 80% is standard for healthy lung function.

Politicians and health-care policy makers in South Africa need to take immediate notice of this silent epidemic and start taking urgent measures to both prevent (through education) and treat COPD effectively before it gets out of hand.

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