ADVERTISEMENT

Smoker’s Cough Can Be a Sign of COPD: Quit Smoking Now!

Don’t ignore the smoker’s cough or breathlessness

Updated
Fit
6 min read
Smoker’s Cough Can Be a Sign of COPD: Quit Smoking Now!
i

However bad you thought smoking was, it’s even worse.

If you are a smoker, I’m not here to judge you. There are way too many reasons why people smoke, nicotine is one helluva addictive substance, making it hard to stop even if you want to.

But now research says, if a smoker is wheezing it could be an early sign of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

So if quitting smoking is your resolution for the coming new year, here’s another solid health reason to stay committed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Smoker’s Cough

The early symptoms of COPD are coughing, bringing up sputum and breathlessness even in mildly strenuous exercises.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

COPD is like a sunburn of your air passages. When cells are exposed to toxic substances for long periods, they tend to get swollen. In COPD, they get inflamed to the point of blocking the air flow.

The early symptoms are coughing, bringing up sputum and breathlessness even in mildly strenuous exercises.

Chronic bronchitis, a type of COPD is most observed in smokers. In this case, patients develop chronic cough with expectoration. This is a sign enough that the lungs aren’t functioning normally, says Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Consultant - Respiratory and Critical Care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

ADVERTISEMENT

Smokers Must Get Screened Early for COPD

As per a study in PubMed Central (PMC), COPD develops in about 10%–20% of the smokers.

It estimates that deaths from COPD will rise by more than 20% in the coming decade unless immediate action is taken to curb the use of tobacco.

Yet, there is limited awareness on the disease and the dangers it poses.

While genes might play some role in the disease, COPD is largely caused by smoking.

Dr Rajesh Chawla says that the sooner the smokers get themselves screened, the better it is since early diagnosis and treatment can help them manage their condition better.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even If You Quit Smoking, You Are Never in the Clear

Smokers often dismiss the early signs of COPD as smoker’s cough and continue to smoke. That’s how the disease progresses and becomes worse.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

About 30 to 40% of all smokers end up getting COPD, according to the Public Health Foundation of India.

So if you quit smoking, will your chances of getting COPD be reduced? Sadly, that’s not how it works.

Lung capacity decreases with age normally but this decline is faster in COPD patients. And COPD in smokers worsens the situation even further. So if you stop smoking, the decline in lung function will become slower but still won’t be at par with that of a healthy, non-smoker.
Dr Rajesh Chawla

Dr Chawla further explains that the risk of developing COPD in smokers also depends a lot on the individual’s medical history, how many years had she/he been smoking for, how many packets of cigarettes etc. Even if you don’t smoke for a couple of years, the risk might still be high.

So, unfortunately you might never be in the clear.

But the good news is that once diagnosed, COPD is treatable.

Dr Chawla urges all smokers to get themselves screened soon. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) will assist in the diagnosis of COPD.

As part of the pulmonary function tests (PFTs), one can also undergo the bronchodilator test. It uses a spirometer and a bronchodilator which assist in the diagnosis of asthma and COPD by measuring the reversibility with the help of an inhaled bronchodilator.  
Dr Rajesh Chawla  

Other tests may include a chest x-ray, CT scan, arterial blood gas analysis along with other laboratory tests which may help figure if they are any other complications.

ADVERTISEMENT

So if you are a smoker, take this as a sign for quitting permanently - even if you get the diagnosis in the future, a non-smoker will manage it better and for longer.

(FIT is running a month-long campaign to increase awareness around chronic lung diseases. If you have any questions on COPD, write in to us at FIT@thequint.com. We’ll get our experts to answer your queries for you. For more information on COPD, call 1800 208 2882.)

ADVERTISEMENT

However bad you thought smoking was, it’s even worse.

If you are a smoker, I’m not here to judge you. There are way too many reasons why people smoke, nicotine is one helluva addictive substance, making it hard to stop even if you want to. But now research says, if a smoker is wheezing it could be an early sign of COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; a progressive lung ailment that leaves 15 million Indians huffing and puffing for air.

So if quitting smoking is your New Year resolution, here’s another solid health reason to stay committed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gasping For Breath

To end up in an emergency room because you’re not able to breathe properly is frightening - conditions like COPD affect all aspects of life, walking, talking, bathing, doing household chores (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)

COPD is like a sunburn of your air passages. When cells are exposed to toxic substances for long periods, they tend to get swollen. In COPD, they get inflamed to the point of blocking the air flow. The early symptoms are coughing, bringing up sputum and breathlessness even in mildly strenuous exercises.

According to a study published in the British Thoracic Society, 70% of smokers tell their family or friends to see a doctor when they have a persistent cough but only 15% follow the same advice themselves.

A report by the Public Health England urges smokers to not dismiss the regular cough because it could mean the start of COPD, a collection of lung disorders including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Even though lung cancer is assumed to be deadlier, as it affects 18 lakh Indians annually, COPD strikes down almost 15 lakh people in the country every year. The number of deaths due to COPD has shot up drastically, almost doubled in the last decade and the most dramatic increase has occurred in women. (Source: World Health Organisation)

Yet, there is limited awareness on the disease and far less research on medication and treatment options. What frustrates doctors the most is that while COPD is incurable, it is largely preventable. Genes do play a role in the disease but 9 out of 10 cases in India are triggered by smoking. That’s easier said than done, considering how addictive tobacco is and it’s not an option for the 10% non-smokers who get COPD.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even If You Quit Smoking, You Are Never in the Clear

By 2020, COPD will be the third largest cause of death in India (Photo: iStock)

Smokers often dismiss the early signs of COPD as smoker’s cough and continue to smoke. That’s how the disease progresses and becomes worse.

About 30 to 40% of all smokers end up getting COPD, according to the Public Health Foundation of India. The scary part is, even if one doesn’t smoke for 25 to 30 years, you are never in the clear of COPD. The risk depends on how much you smoked. If you smoked one cigarette a day for maybe a year, your risk is low. But if you smoked a pack a day for 20 years, then even after two to three decades you are still at risk.

So once you have the disease, you carry it for the rest of your life. It can be managed with medication but given the scant research on this area, doctors also don’t know which medication works best for elderly COPD patients.

Regular lung tests are the only sure-fire ways to identify the disease in early stages. There is no cure or no new treatment in the pipeline - since the disease is mostly self-inflicted, it will never attract the kind of sympathetic funding which cancer and other diseases do.

So if you are a smoker, take this as a sign for quitting permanently - even if you get the diagnosis in the future, a non-smoker will manage it better and for longer.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from fit

Topics:  Smoking   Smoker's Cough   COPD 

ADVERTISEMENT
Published: 
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Quint Insider
25
100
200

or more

PREMIUM

3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Insider Benefits
Read More
ADVERTISEMENT
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
ADVERTISEMENT
More News
×
×