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250,000 Irish people aren't being diagnosed with fatal disease that can be managed if caught early

Ireland has the highest rate of hospitalisation for COPD in the OECD, almost double the OECD average.

Image: Shutterstock/Image Point Fr

AN ESTIMATED 500,000 people in Ireland have COPD but only half are likely to be diagnosed.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of Ireland’s leading causes of death, according to Professor Tim McDonnell, consultant respiratory physician at St Vincent’s University Hospital.

“It is a disease which makes breathing very difficult and results in extreme shortness of breath and tiredness after small amounts of physical activity.”

Official figures published by the Department of Health last year show that an estimated 500,000 people in Ireland have COPD but only half are likely to be diagnosed.

The figures also revealed that Ireland has the highest rate of hospitalisation for COPD in the OECD, almost double the OECD average.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 35 member countries.

‘Study needed’

COPD Support Ireland is calling on the Health Minister Simon Harris to immediately commission a full study into COPD in Ireland.

Chief executive of COPD Support Ireland, Bernie Murphy said the high rate of hospitalisations could be due to the disease not being diagnosed early enough.

“The problem seems to be that there is an estimated 250,000 people in Ireland who have COPD but do not know it. As it is not diagnosed early, the symptoms just become worse and worse until the patient has to be admitted to hospital.’’

Murphy said an in-depth study into COPD in Ireland is needed to increase early diagnoses.

This will save people’s lives and reduce the strain on our hospitals. COPD is a terribly destructive disease which can be managed if it is caught early.

Professor McDonnell added, “Exacerbation of the disease leads to the patient requiring regular medical attention and attendance at emergency departments.

“The most common cause of COPD is smoking, but about 30% of sufferers are not current smokers and some develop the disease from genetic factors or other causes, such as prolonged exposure to dust, pollution or fumes.’’

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