Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma pose a significant health burden on the global adult population. The underdiagnosis of asthma ranges from 20% to 70% depending on the age of the population studied but the prevalence of underdiagnosis of COPD seems to be approximately 80%.

I find these statistics hard to believe but a recent study has shown that these numbers are basically correct. Patients with early airways disease often do not tell their doctor about their symptoms or they consider them simply a function of aging. The fear of testing and the cost of taking medication prevents some from describing their symptoms to their doctor. Many patients, particularly those with COPD, may not present until their airflow is reduced by 50% or more and can no longer ignore their shortness of breath and other symptoms.

Early diagnosis will create a greater potential for treatment and will lead to a better long-term outcome. Patients with COPD or asthma that go unrecognized early often develop fixed airflow obstruction which is less amenable to current treatments. If you have breathing symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing or if you are a smoker with persistent cough, tell your physician. There are reliable tests to determine if you have lung disease such as asthma or COPD.

For an in-depth consideration of your symptoms if you have been a smoker or have a family history of lung disease call the Lung Disease Center of Central PA at 814-946-2845 for an evaluation