New threat to smokers

PHOTO: New threat to smokers

KUALA LUMPUR - Besides cancer and heart attacks, smokers are now cautioned about another condition that can cut their lives short, "lung attacks".

Institute of Respiratory Medicine (IPR) director Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif said lung attacks were as deadly as heart attacks.

"Lung attack is not a commonly used term but we want people to know that it is as bad as a heart attack and people can die from it," he said.

"It is actually a term we use to describe exacerbation, an acute attack that happens when patients with decreased lung function experience a sudden worsening of symptoms. They become more breathless, cough more and can't breathe properly," he said.

According to a study, 25 per cent of those admitted to the intensive care unit as a result of a lung attack would die, said Dr Abdul Razak.

"The same study showed that about 10 per cent of those who are hospitalised and one-third of those in the emergency room end up dead."

People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more prone to lung attacks as their airways are already narrowed due to the disease.

"That is why any insult' to their lungs like an infection or exposure to pollutants can trigger an attack'," said Dr Abdul Razak.

In Malaysia, an estimated 4 per cent to 5 per cent of the population have COPD.

About 80 per cent to 90 per cent of those with COPD are smokers while the remaining are sufferers, usually exposed to smoke from biomass burning or other pollutants.

"However, COPD does not happen quickly because the effects of smoking is usually seen 30 to 40 years later," he added.

"The problem is that we still see many patients late when there is already lung damage and there is nothing much we can do, except give them treatment to make them feel better," said Dr Abdul Razak.

He urgred smokers aged 40 and above who are breathless and have chronic cough to have their doctors check their lung function.