Women's health * Men's health * 50+ health * Healthy living * Quit smoking

'Missing millions' have chronic lung disease

Zone default image And they don't know

Three quarters of smokers and ex-smokers don't go to their GP for a lung function test despite having signs of chronic lung disease, a new survey has found.

The survey of 403 current and ex-smokers, carried out for British Lung Foundation, found that 73% of those questioned had never thought of asking their GP for a lung function test.

This is despite 21% having experienced symptoms of a chronic lung condition known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Symptoms of COPD ignored by the group included persistent cough, breathlessness, wheezy chest, recurrent infections, excess phlegm and chest pain.

In addition to this, almost two in ten smokers and ex smokers said they felt breathless walking up a slight hill and 8% said they had to stop to take a breath to keep up with friends walking on flat ground.

Nine people questioned even said they were so breathless they were unable to leave their house, yet none had considered having a lung function test.

COPD is an umbrella term for a number of conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is characterised by permanent scarring to the lung tissue caused mostly by smoking. It kills more people every year in the UK than breast, bowel or prostate cancer, yet many people have never heard of it.

An estimated 3.7 million people in the UK have the disease, yet only 900,000 people are currently diagnosed. This means that almost 3 million people have the condition but don’t know it.

GP and broadcaster Carol Cooper is supporting the British Lung Foundation’s campaign to encourage smokers and ex-smokers to ask their GP for a lung function test.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "We are delighted Dr Carol Cooper is supporting our ‘Love Your Lungs’ campaign. Symptoms such as breathlessness and a persistent cough are often ignored by smokers or ex smokers as signs of getting older but they could be symptoms of COPD.

"COPD is a chronic, irreversible disease that can leave individuals unable to perform simple everyday tasks and dependent on oxygen if it is left untreated. It is important that people take the signs of COPD seriously and ask their GP for a lung function test as the sooner they are diagnosed and treated the better."

The British Lung Foundation are holding free lung function testing as part of its ‘Love Your Lungs’ campaign to mark World COPD Day (18th November) and find the missing millions in the UK who have the disease.

The charity is also launching a national competition to encourage people to learn about the condition. Those taking part can win a Harrods Christmas hamper and a subscription to Delicious magazine.

More information:

British Lung Foundation

This article was published on Tue 17 November 2009

Image © © cornelius - Fotolia.com

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