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Helping Malaysians with COPD to live every breath

Breathing. For the most part, it’s something we do without thinking. But for the half a million Malaysians estimated to be living with COPD, this simple act is a daily struggle, one which is a barrier to all that life has to offer.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung condition that limits airflow in the lungs, causing a person to feel out of breath. Typically caused by long-term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke that damage the lungs and the airways, other symptoms also include frequent coughing (with or without mucus), wheezing and experiencing a sensation of tightness in the chest. There is currently no cure for COPD, and whilst the early symptoms may be subtle and pass by unnoticed, COPD can have fatal consequences if it is not properly managed – the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD)  predicts that COPD will be the third leading cause of death by 2020.

“The nature and severity of symptoms presented in COPD is influenced by a range of factors, including exposure to cigarette smoke, viruses and air pollution, making every patient’s journey of COPD unique.” stated Lung Foundation of Malaysia Trustee, Datuk Dr Aziah Ahmad Mahayiddin. “As a result, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to disease management doesn’t necessarily work, as sufferers may have different treatment needs that can change over time. Unfortunately, COPD is underdiagnosed and undermanaged. Progression of the condition can be delayed with prompt diagnosis, proper assessment of disease severity and appropriate management.”

In addition to the respiratory symptoms, COPD is associated with an array of comorbidities such as skeletal muscle dysfunction, systemic inflammation, and cardiovascular problems that can severely impact sufferers’ quality of life. Patients with COPD may also show a loss of appetite as a result of their breathing difficulties, with between 25% to 40% of sufferers estimated to be in an undernourished state. Unaddressed, these symptoms can often result in depression and social isolation.

“For many individuals with COPD, daily activities can be quite strenuous and daunting. Therefore, it is crucial for them to speak with their doctor to formulate a management strategy which will best suits their physical and emotional needs,” explained Assoc. Prof. Pang Yong Kek, President of the Malaysian Thoracic Society.

“Of course, one of the most important steps in COPD management is to quit smoking, as this will prevent further decline of lung function. In addition to medication, patients should embrace an active lifestyle, take a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough rest in between their activities. For those with reduced effort tolerance – the decreased ability to exercise – they may be referred to attend a pulmonary rehabilitation programme, where they will be taught effective breathing techniques and customised exercises, tailored to their capabilities.”

Taking precautions against the risk factors of COPD can help to slow the progression of the disease and improve lung function5. Flu and pneumonia can have serious complications for COPD patients, thus vaccination against these diseases can help protect individuals against infection5. Additionally, avoiding fumes, odours and other lung irritants may prevent further flare-ups5. By making sure they receive enough sleep and rest throughout the day, individuals suffering from COPD can also maintain their energy levels throughout their daily activities.

Dr Jamalul Azizi Abdul Rahaman, Chairman of the Malaysian Association for Bronchology & Interventional Pulmonology (MABIP) and Head of Respiratory Services, Ministry of Health added, “The progression of COPD is usually reflected in the deterioration in lung function, which leads to poorer quality of life. Patients may even find it difficult to get themselves dressed or have a good laugh without feeling breathless. Previously patients who were not well managed with conventional treatments had limited options for further treatment. However, there are new treatment advances beyond inhalers in severe COPD currently available in Malaysia.”

Lien Pham Thi My, General Manager, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd, Malaysia stated, “At GSK, people are at the heart of everything we do, and we are committed to the relentless pursuit of better breathing for all Malaysians living with COPD. Through our ongoing collaboration with the country’s leading respiratory associations, we will work hand-in-hand with healthcare professionals to support and empower patients, providing them with the resources to help them manage their disease effectively. In doing so, we hope to continually contribute to reduce the national burden of COPD, so patients can live every breath.”

For more information on how to manage the symptoms of COPD, please visit the COPD Choices website at: https://gskpro.com.my/copdchoices/ or speak to your healthcare professional.


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