Author(s): Loh LC, Lai CH, Liew OH, Siow YY
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Abstract Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a growing health problem worldwide and in Malaysia. Until recently, research on COPD has been slow and difficult, partly due to the huge heterogeneity of this disease, and its variable and imprecise definitions. To perform a descriptive study on a convenient sample of local patients with COPD treated in a state hospital in Malaysia. Fifty-two patients [mean (95\% CI) age: 67 (63-70) years; 86\% male: 38\% Malays, 36\% Chinese, 25\% Indians; mean (95\% CI) PEFR: 45 (40-51) \% predicted normal] were interviewed. Clinico-demographic data was collected using a structured questionnaire and health-related quality of life was scored using St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ). For analysis, patients were also divided into moderate (n=17) [PEFR 50\% to 80\%] and severe (n=35) [PEFR < 50\%] disease groups. Except for education and total family income, demographic and comorbidity variables were comparable between the two groups of COPD severity. All except 9\% of patients were current or ex-smokers. Breathlessness, not chronic bronchitis (i.e. cough and sputum), was the first ranking respiratory symptom in over 70\% of the patients, whether currently or at early disease manifestation. Between 5 and 15\% of the patients denied any symptom of chronic bronchitis as current or early stage symptoms. Duration of symptoms prior to the diagnosis varied considerably with about 9\% having symptoms for over 10 years. Over 80\% of the patients smoked for over 15 years before the onset of symptoms. Quality of life in patients with COPI) was generally poor and similar between both COPD severity groups. About one fifth of the patients had exacerbations more than 12 times a year. While many features described in our local patients are well recognized in COPD, the finding that 'chronic bronchitis' is not a prominent symptom in the current or past history may have important implications in the diagnosis of at risk individuals and patients with early disease requiring attention. More research is required to confirm and to understand this.
This article was published in Med J Malaysia
and referenced in Journal of Pulmonary & Respiratory Medicine