NI charity targets 'creeping killer' lung disease
Thousands of people in Northern Ireland are suffering from a serious lung disease without knowing it, a medical charity has warned.
NI Chest, Heart and Stroke is urging people to check their lungs for early signs of respiratory disease.
"We would urge people with symptoms like constant coughing, wheezing or breathlessness to get checked out by their doctor," Andrew Dougal said.
The charity is launching a radio, bus and billboard campaign.
Mr Dougal, NICHS' chief executive said: "Better diagnosis and early intervention could reduce the local death rate, cut hospital admissions and save the health service some of the £47m it costs to treat respiratory illness - including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma - in Northern Ireland each year."
- COPD includes the conditions bronchitis and emphysema
- Symptoms include shortness of breath and phlegm
- Most chronic lung diseases like COPD get worse gradually over a number of years, with breathing becoming more and more difficult
- It gets to the stage when any exertion, even changing position, talking or eating can produce breathlessness
- By 2020, COPD is predicted to be the third biggest cause of death in the world
The charity said 2,096 deaths in NI in 2008 were due to respiratory illness.
About 27,000 people in NI are being treated for COPD, but NICHS believes many thousands more have the symptoms.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that COPD will be the third leading cause of death around the world by 2030.
COPD is an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and small airways disease. Over a long period, lung damage impairs the flow of air in and out of the lungs.