Smoker’s Disease

We often see adverts on TV or in movie theatres how cigarette smoking is bad for us. Mostly we are told cigarette-smoking leads to cancer of the lung. Include in the list also beedi, hookah, pipe, cheroots etc. In short any smoke from burning tobacco has the potential to cause cancer. There is a  disease that is not as publicized as cancer but also affects our respiratory system. It is known as  chronic obstructive lung disease. From now on we shall refer to this disease as smoker’s disease.

Air that we breathe in goes into lungs through air pipes. Where in small air sacs, oxygen from air is exchanged with carbon dioxide fromed in the body. In smoker’s disease, small air pipes that lead upto air sac are inflamed and in some cases air sacs are permanently damaged. As a result, flow of oxygen to body is affected and exchanged between oxygen and carbon dioxide is hampered. In addition, air passage of these patients are also filled with mucus secretion further hampering smooth flow of air.
According to estimates, in developed world where proper statistics is available there may be close to 100 million people that suffer from smokers disease. Number will be much higher, if we include countries like India and China. Where population is high, population is relatively young and a large section of young population also smokes. In addition to cigarette smoke, out door pollution, exposure to occupational chemicals may also contribute towards propagation and maintenance of smokers disease.
Recently it has come to light that in developing countries like India, China, Brazil and many others where predominantly poor population cook in wood fire in a closed living space also get symptoms of smokers disease. In many cases such conditions go unreported and under reported because of socio-economic condition of these patients. This may increase the number of patients for smoker’s disease even more.
Treatment options for smoker’s disease is limited. Definitely nothing can regenerate a permanently damaged air sac. Nature of inflammation in this disease is such that known anti-inflammatory drugs are less effective to control the progression of this disease. Existing therapeutic options only offer to alleviate the symptom by widening air passage. Besides, it is also known that cigarette smoke induced smoker’s disease also affects cardiovascular and metabolic system. We do not know if the same happens in case of woodfire induced smoke.
A lot of study has gone into understanding cigarette smoke induce airway damage. Very little is known how passive smoking of wood fire smoke contributes to lung damage in Indian population. Once we understand the basic molecular basis of the disease, then only we can design a therapy. In this matter role of Indian pharmaceutical industry is very important as described in my earlier posts. Unfortunately, finding a cure for a disease that is unique to Indians does not appear to be a priority in India.

Tags: Air sac, Airway, Airway Disease, Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease, Cigarette Smoke, Pharmaceutical Industry, Pollution, Smoker’s Disease, Wood Fire Smoke

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