Asthma accounts for 1,000 deaths per annum

The Sri Lanka College of Pulmonologists (SLCP) last Monday (14th) said, that . Sri Lanka has an estimated one million asthma patients at present approximately 1,000 persons die of asthma every year in Sri Lankan Government hospitals.

Addressing the media, in view of the World Asthma Day, which was held on 1 May, SLCP Council Member,‎Respiratory Physician, Dr. Keerthi Gunasekera said, the country was reaching a higher level in the world’s asthma statistics due to the number of persons being diagnosed with the disease. The National Hospital, Colombo has seen a large number of them, he said. Dr. Gunasekera said there was a total of 300 million asthma patients in the world.

Impressing the gravity of the chronic respiratory disease which inflames and narrows the airways, making it difficult for the patient to breathe, the Respiratory Physician said, a survey (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood-ISAAC) carried out amongst 7,000 children had shown that 25 per cent of children suffered from asthma and that 12 per cent of them were acute sufferers of the disease.

He said that 20 per cent of adults suffered from the disease. “The situation of this respiratory disease in the country is such, that the Government should be made aware of it, so that steps could be taken to bring the situation under control. There should be special clinics and specially trained nurses to help cope with asthma patients. Family members of each patient should also be made aware of the disease and how to cope with it. But there is a general fear regarding this respiratory disease due to the difficulties it causes the patient when breathing,” he said.  

SLCP Council Member, Consultant Respiratory Physician, Dr. Suharshi Silva explained that asthma is a genetic disease just like diabetes. It surfaces in environments which are conducive to it, she noted.

However, the factor which brings it to the surface may differ from patient to patient. The possible causative factors are the presence of a virus causing a runny nose (influenza or sinus), air pollution caused by cigarette, mosquito coil, vehicle, and industrial smoke, and dust. It also includes allergies to dust mites, food and pets, and exercising (especially in cold weather).

SLCP Council Member, Respiratory Physician, Dr. Chandimale Urugodage said that medication to control the disease in patients included reliever medication and preventer medication. Both were administered to patients through inhalers as it directly reaches his or her lungs unlike tablets or capsules.

SLCP Joint Secretary, Dr. Bodhika Samarasekera, said that there were several myths regarding the inhaler. Identifying them, he said that inhalers were not addictive, but were necessary to ensure that the medication being taken reached the affected area. “There is no necessity to avoid various types of food as the same food type does not affect all asthmatics alike. All patients should be conscious of having wholesome meal.”

Most essential, he said, women with asthma should continue to use the inhaler even during pregnancy as there were possibilities of complications due to the lack of oxygen during childbirth if they stopped doing so.