Millions of long-term smokers may have undiagnosed lung disease, a new study finds.
Fifty-five percent of those who pass lung function tests still have a respiratory impairment, researchers report.
But, using advanced imaging techniques along with walking and quality-of-life tests can reveal early signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). An incurable, progressive disease, COPD is associated with smoking and is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, the researchers added.
“Smokers who have ‘normal’ lung-function tests often have significant respiratory disease. Many of those smokers likely have the early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” study author Dr. Elizabeth Regan, an assistant professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, said in a hospital news release.