We all feel breathless sometimes but we also know when our breathlessness is not normal. It may be the first sign that something more serious is going on. Untreated lung disease can cause serious problems and some of those are irreversible if not treated early. When it comes to chronic lung disease, some people may not have got their diagnosis until they end up in hospital, but lung disease has to start somewhere.
If we could only get people to recognise the importance of recognising signs of lung disease at the early stages then we could save up to £1bn a year in hospital costs, disability payments and time taken off work. Breathless can occur normally but we have to get better at recognising when it tips over from normal to abnormal.
The Listen to Your Lungs campaign is introducing the BLF breath test. People are asked to answer ten questions based around the Medical Research Council breathlessness scale. This test will support the campaign by helping people decide if they need to see a GP. It has been designed very carefully to identify when there is a genuine problem and when people need to do something about it, but also to reassure the ‘worried well’ that they are within the normal healthy range.
We need to drop the severity threshold too for diagnosis and not wait until symptoms are severe before considering them worth investigating. This is the message we want to get out to healthcare professionals, particularly those in primary care who may be the first point of contact when someone complains of breathlessness for the first time. For this reason, we have sent out awareness packs to GPs and asked them to pass the message on to patients so they can take the BLF breath test for themselves.
Take the BLF’s online breath test.