A Study on Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD) in Ex-mineworkers of the Transkei. A Misunderstood Clinical Condition
Keywords:Ex-mineworkers, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary tuberculosis, silicosis
Background: There is no diagnostic indicative mark for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD). It is a general assessment of the patient leading to a diagnose as COPD. In most cases, there
is a mixed picture of severe lung diseases including fibrosis, tuberculosis, silicosis, etc. In fact, COPD
is the commonest and terminal entity in the majority of ex-mineworkers who were suffering primarily
from the dust-lung-disease which is complex in origin.
Objectives: To establish the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases in ex-mineworkers
of the Transkei, South Africa.
Methodology: During the period of 28 May 1997 to 27 May 1999, 2080, ex-mineworkers were
examined at the Benefit Examination Clinic (BEC) in the chest section of Umtata (Mthatha) General
Hospital (UGH). Physical examination along with standard chest x-rays were carried out; the mining
history of each worker was taken, and identification forms were completed.
Results: There were 13% of ex-mineworkers suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Out of them, 56% of the subjects (COPD) were associated with conditions like chronic bronchitis,
emphysema, and bronchial asthma. The rest (44%) were associated with other lung diseases like
tuberculosis and silicosis. Out of this number, 33% were associated with tuberculosis and 11% with
silicosis. Most of the ex-mineworkers were suffering from an association of diseases ranging from
simple tuberculosis to silicosis and their secondary effects.
Conclusion: Every seventh ex-mineworkers were suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease. About half of them were having associated parenchymal diseases like tuberculosis and silicosis.
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