Around 500,000 people in Ireland have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), however half of these remain undiagnosed, a support charity for those affected has warned.
COPD is an umbrella term for a number of chronic lung disorders, including bronchitis and emphysema. It is a progressive, disabling condition caused by a narrowing of the airways.
The charity, COPD Support Ireland, is calling on people with symptoms of the condition to see a doctor and get an official diagnosis. It noted that people with concerns or queries can avail of a free COPD and Asthma Adviceline, where they can speak to a respiratory nurse.
"Some 500,000 people In Ireland have COPD and estimates suggest that 50% of these people are undiagnosed. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, persistent coughing, coughing up mucus/phlegm and wheezing, you should see a doctor who can help you investigate, especially if you are over 40 years old," commented the charity's chairperson, Prof JJ Gilmartin.
According to Sarah O'Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, which runs the COPD and Asthma Adviceline, it is essential that people with COPD and asthma properly control these conditions, and the Adviceline ‘is the perfect way for them to do so'.
"Pick up the phone to the Adviceline - it's a great first step in taking charge of your COPD and/or asthma and moving toward a better quality of life. The Adviceline's respiratory nurse specialists work through every aspect of life with callers who are affected," Ms O'Connor said.
Advice is available on a number of topics, such as signs and symptoms, what to do in the event of a COPD emergency and triggers for the condition. The nurse specialists can also answer questions after a GP or consultant appointment and help put a COPD self-management plan in place, including smoking cessation and exercise plans.
"After speaking to one of our nurses, you'll be fully equipped with the information and skills you need to improve your health and to stay as well as possible," Ms O'Connor said.
The COPD Adviceline number is 1800 832 146. The Asthma Adviceline number is 1800 445 464. Callers can book a free call back appointment by calling this free phone number between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. The Asthma Society facilitates a call back from the nurse at a time that suits the patient.
For more information on COPD Support Ireland, click here