Is your lung age too high?

Alison Hughes helps Eric Compton check for signs of lung problems at the  Crookhorn surgery.''''Picture: Allan Hutchings (132618-401)
Alison Hughes helps Eric Compton check for signs of lung problems at the Crookhorn surgery.''''Picture: Allan Hutchings (132618-401)

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When the simple task of having a shower was leaving Eric Compton out of breath, he knew there was a problem.

Eric, 66, of Cosham, was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2007.

He says: ‘I’d had a cough for quite a while, but as I was asthmatic, I thought it was linked to that.

‘The first time I knew it was a real problem was when I was going to the bathroom would have a shower and then would sit on the bed breathless.

‘I was too out of breath to even dry myself.

‘Then I’d get out of breath going down the stairs and I’d still be breathless after that.

‘My wife noticed this too and the following day I went to the doctor’s.’

Tests revealed Mr Compton has COPD, which is an all-encompassing term which covers conditions including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive airways disease and chronic airflow limitation.

It is a chronic, or permanent, disorder where there is a constant airflow obstruction.

And it’s associated with on-going and progressive breathlessness, a chronic productive cough and limited exercise capacity.

The airflow obstruction usually gets worse as time goes on, and is not fully reversible, but can be managed.

It is rare for someone under the age of 35 to be diagnosed with the condition, which is largely associated with people who smoke.

Mr Compton says: ‘I started smoking when I was 14, and I can’t even tell you how many cigarettes I smoked.

‘I then gave up cigarettes in the 90s, but moved on to cigars.

‘I stopped smoking altogether in 2006, and a year later I was diagnosed with COPD.

‘The fact I’m asthmatic should’ve been reason enough not to smoke, but most people carry on regardless.

‘The sooner you can give up the better – it really helps you to improve your life.

‘One of the best things you can do is exercise.’

In Hampshire, around 22,400 are diagnosed with COPD each year.

In a bid to catch the condition early, a roadshow is being rolled out to offer lung tests.

The COPD Know it. Check it. Treat it campaign has been launched in the Portsmouth area.

The campaign aims to increase public awareness of COPD, encourage patients to recognise symptoms, and visit their GP or practice nurse.

The Portsmouth, South Eastern Hampshire, and Fareham and Gosport Clinical Commissioning Groups – which buy in health services in the area – are working together to ensure people recognise the signs.

Dr Andrew Whittamore, is a GP and partner at Crookhorn Lane Surgery, and the clinical lead for the south central respiratory programme.

He said: ‘We want to get people with COPD in to us sooner.

‘The most common symptoms are a persistent cough, shortness of breath and phlegm.

‘A lot of people get used to their cough, and think because they smoke it’s to be expected, but you should get checked out.’

A roadshow is visiting shopping centres in the area, and will offer a free lung check.

Alison Hughes, is a respiratory specialist nurse for Solent NHS Trust.

She said: ‘The test on the roadshow is a very quick way of checking if someone may have a problem.

‘If there is an abnormal reading, then you can go along for a full lung function test.

‘We need simple details like age, height and sex.’

People blow into a small tube for six seconds – the first second measures how much air is expelled in a percentage.

A reading of 80 per cent or more would mean you’re at a mild risk of having COPD.

Between 79 per cent and 50 per cent, shows a moderate risk, between 49 per cent and 30 per cent is a severe risk, and anything below 30 per cent would be very severe.

The less air expelled shows how obstructed a person’s lungs are.

A CAMPAIGN to raise awareness about a lung condition will be hitting the roads.

The COPD: Know it. Check it. Treat it campaign is coming to shopping centres in Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham.

The aim is to raise awareness of conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Dr Andrew Whittamore, is a GP at Crookhorn Lane Surgery, and clinical lead for the south central respiratory programme.

He said: ‘We are encouraging everyone in Portsmouth and Hampshire at risk of COPD to “know it” - by recognising the main symptoms of shortness of breath and persistent cough; to “check it” - by seeing their doctor or nurse if they experience any of these symptoms; and to “treat it” - by managing the disease effectively and making lifestyle changes.

‘COPD is a slow, progressive disease and people can have it for years without realising.’

The screening events are taking place at the following locations:

Saturday, October 5, Gosport High Street.

Friday, October 18, Fareham Shopping Centre.

Friday, October 25, Cascades shopping centre, Portsmouth.