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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Each year, an estimated >3 million people die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the majority of those deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

COPD is generally under-diagnosed especially in this part of the world (Africa).  It is a progressive life-threatening disease of the lungs that causes shortness of breath with frequent respiratory infections.

Risk factors include:

  • Smoking ( active or exposure to second-hand smoking )
  • Air pollution
  • Occupational dust/chemicals
  • Long term uncontrolled asthma
  • Tuberculosis

Symptoms usually develop over time and tend to present overtly in the 4th or 5th decade of life. They include:

 – Chronic cough with phlegm production

 – Shortness of breath that is initially during activity but progresses to occur at rest.

Symptoms can be life-threatening and debilitating, usually requiring urgent medical attention.

COPD although not a curable disease can be managed adequately with the right treatment and medical care that also involves physical therapy.

Majority of the cases of COPD can be prevented by avoiding tobacco smoking or early cessation of smoking for those that already smoke.

Occupational lung disease

This refers to a group of diseases caused by inhalation of dust particles, chemicals, coal etc at the workplace. They include diseases like:

Occupational exposure Diseases
Silica Silicosis
Asbestos Asbestosis
Coal Coal workers pneumoconiosis
Pigeon droppings Pigeon breeders disease
Bird products Bird fanciers lung
Chemicals, dust, air conditioner Occupational asthma etc

These diseases usually occur after long repeated and high-intensity exposure to the irritants (triggers). Certain jobs are more at risk of getting occupational lung diseases than others.

Occupational lung diseases are preventable. Tobacco smoking can worsen the severity of occupational lung diseases and increase the chances of the individual to have lung cancer.

Symptoms of occupational lung disease include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest pain

How can it be prevented?

  • Wear proper protective devices at work.
  • Frequent evaluation of the lungs with a lung function test at your doctor’s office.