The British Lung Foundation has made an announcement to coincide with Love Your Lungs week, raising awareness that millions of people in the UK are living with undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
When undiagnosed, patients miss out on vital care. A study of 350,000 responses between January 2016 and April 2018 saw 20% of participants reporting that their lives were significantly limited by breathlessness.
The vast majority who took the test said they were worried about their breathing but despite their concerns about one-quarter had not consulted a doctor.
The test comprises 10 questions including physical activity, smoking and the Medical Research Council’s breathlessness scale – which allows doctors to assign a severity score to a person’s breathlessness.
Dr Nick Hopkinson, the BLF’s Medical Director, says that getting out of breath during normal activities is “not a normal part of ageing, it requires an explanation.
“Breathlessness can be due to lack of fitness or being overweight, but it may also be a sign someone has a lung or heart problem.
“There are simple tests of lung function to see if there’s a problem and it’s worrying many people are not getting the necessary checks to find this out.
“It’s clear much more needs to be done to get people to take breathlessness seriously as a symptom, so people can get treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.
“Even if breathlessness is not due to a medical condition, action to increase fitness, eat a healthy diet and stop smoking can all improve symptoms and will also reduce the risk of developing health problems in the future.”
Breathlessness affects 10% of the UK population and up to 30% of older people. Many people assume being out of breath regularly is just part of getting older and might not realise it's actually a symptom of a lung condition.