Smoking is No. 1 cause of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the 10th leading cause of death in Singapore, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.

In Singapore, there are almost 88,000 people who suffer from COPD, said Adjunct Assistant Professor Tan Tze Lee, a family physician at The Edinburgh Clinic.

He expects the number of people suffering from COPD to grow.

"These numbers are expected to grow with the increasing numbers of heavy smokers here in Singapore," said Prof Tan, who is also president of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Association of Singapore.

The US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.

There is no cure, but there are treatments to slow the progress of the disease.


A patient with copd has less air flowing in and out of the lungs because his lungs have become less elastic.

The disease causes coughing, which produces a large amount of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

Although breathing in secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes or dust can contribute to COPD, the No. 1 cause of COPD is smoking, said the institute.

Prof Tan said: "Judging from the patients I've seen over the years, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years, you would roughly have a 50 per cent chance of getting COPD.

"Heavy smokers - those who have been smoking for more than 10 years - are at higher risk."

Although COPD is often confused with asthma, COPD patients are usually older as the onset of the disease usually occurs when a patient is above 40.

He added: "Asthmatics also usually have a history of allergies, and the condition tends to run in families. COPD patients do not usually have associated allergies."