Six in 10 have never heard of COPD: CGH survey

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), the 10th most common cause of death in Singapore and one of the most common causes of hospitalisation.

Yet, a recent survey conducted by Changi General Hospital's (CGH's) respiratory medicine department showed that awareness of this chronic lung condition was alarmingly low among Singaporeans, particularly smokers.

Of the 82 males and 78 females who were surveyed in a day, around 65 per cent had never heard of the disorder.

Among those who had heard of the term, about 90 per cent of them did not know that it referred to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is an umbrella term for several lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that makes breathing difficult.

Pneumonia is an acute infection of the lung that is often caused by bacteria and viruses.

INCREASE IN DEATHS

As Singapore's population - as well as its smokers - age, we are likely to see a stark increase in complications and deaths due to COPD.

ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AUGUSTINE TEE, senior consultant and chief of respiratory and critical care medicine at Changi General Hospital.

The survey was presented at the European Respiratory Society 2016 International Congress in September.

Adjunct Associate Professor Augustine Tee, senior consultant and chief of respiratory and critical care medicine at Changi General Hospital, said: "As Sing- apore's population - as well as its smokers - age, we are likely to see a stark increase in complications and deaths due to COPD."

The condition is associated with more emergency department visits and hospitalisations than most other diseases.

If more people knew about COPD, it would increase the likelihood of early detection, resulting in early treatment.

Patients would thus have a better quality of life and be better able to avoid hospitalisation, said Prof Tee.

Many COPD inhaler medications reduce exacerbations or flare-ups, which commonly result in hospitalisation, he said.

These inhalers range from cheap short-acting inhalers to more costly long-acting combination inhalers.

Prof Tee said: "If more smokers are aware of their increased risk of COPD and understand the burden of the disease on themselves and their families, they may decide to give up the habit."

Joyce Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Six in 10 have never heard of COPD: CGH survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe