Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes substantial burden of disease in developed countries, but there are limited data from Africa. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of COPD in Tanzania and identify the risk factors associated with it.
This was a cross-sectional descriptive survey involving adults aged ≥35 years. We collected data on symptoms and risk factors using the Burden of Obstructive Lung Diseases questionnaire. Spirometry was performed and COPD diagnosed based on post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 s/forced vital capacity <70%. We also measured indoor and outdoor carbon monoxide (CO) levels.
A total of 869 participants (49.1% females) completed the questionnaires. Of these, 57.1% completed post-bronchodilator spirometry. Of the 25.2% ever-smokers, only 5.4% were current smokers. COPD prevalence was estimated at 17.5% (21.7% in males and 12.9% in females). COPD was associated with a history of cough, phlegm production and wheezing. 51.7% of COPD patients reported cough and 85% had mild to moderate airway limitation. Females had a higher rate of exacerbation. Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) was reported in 10% of patients. Only 1.7% of patients who were diagnosed as COPD had ever received any medication, with only one female COPD patient having received an inhaler. 99.5% of the population used biomass fuels for cooking. The majority of households had CO levels up to 20 ppm.
The prevalence of COPD in Tanzania is high, with a peak at a relatively young age and a preponderance in males. A history of TB, cigarette smoking and male sex are important risk factors. Indoor air pollution coupled with use of biomass fuel for cooking and heating may be an important risk factor for developing COPD in rural Tanzania. However, these factors need to be studied further.