By Deborah Condon
A major campaign has been launched to raise awareness of a disease that currently affects 110,000 people in Ireland and is predominantly caused by smoking.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a serious respiratory disease that can cause multiple symptoms and lead to significant disability for patients. It is a general term for a number of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
COPD currently affects 110,000 people in Ireland and accounts for almost a quarter of all respiratory deaths here. Smoking is the predominant cause, accounting for up to 90% of the risk for developing the disease.
"There is an epidemic of chronic lung disease in Ireland and it affects all age groups. We now know that chronic lung disease is the most common cause of disability in people under the age of 45", said Dr Charles Gallagher, a consultant in respiratory medicine at St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin and president of the Irish Thoracic Society.
The awareness campaign has been launched ahead of this year's National No Smoking Day (March 1), which takes place every year on Ash Wednesday.
Recent research among Irish GPs found that two key factors tend to limit the success of people attempting to quit smoking:
-Patient motivation - the patient either does not want to or is not ready to give up.
-Patient stamina - the patient finds the process too difficult to sustain.
Research also indicated that there are certain 'life stages' or 'life events', during which a patient is more open to giving up smoking. These include:
-When a woman becomes pregnant.
-The beginning of middle age (40 - 45 years) when awareness of parental responsibility and/or increasing age leads people to re-evaluate their health and lifestyle.
-At risk groups, for example, people who have experienced health problems associated with smoking, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
"COPD, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases are often undiagnosed and when diagnosed, are often under-treated. There is excessive and often inappropriate use of over the counter medications for people with respiratory symptoms", Dr Gallagher said.
The Irish Thoracic Society strongly recommends that people with respiratory symptoms should be assessed by their doctor, he added.
To this end, the campaign will highlight the importance of getting your lungs tested, using a simple test called spirometry. This is a painless test that assesses lung function.
While COPD cannot be cured, the aim of care is to manage the patient's breathing and prevent further complications.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.