A BLACKBURN man who suffers from lung disease has urged smokers to join his support group.

Paul Riley, 65, is worried that many people in the borough could be living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] - but may have just dismissed their problems as ‘smokers cough’.

New figures show the condition claims about 25,000 lives every year – but the number of people living with the disease is even higher. There are thought to be around three million sufferers in the UK, but only 900,000 have been diagnosed.

Leaving the disease untreated means the sufferer will have constant breathing difficulties and a phlegmy cough.

Damage to the lungs is irreversible so there is no way to undo the effects of COPD, but there are ways to slow down its progression.

It is most common amongst smokers but can also be caused by inhaling dust, air pollution or genetic disorders.

Mr Riley, who was diagnosed with COPD and asthma in 2008, said: “I was started on medication and was okay for about 12 to 18 months but then started to get really bad chest infections. I was admitted to the Royal Blackburn Hospital three times and treated with pneumonia”.

Paul was found to have allergies which were aggravating his condition and added: “They gave me anti-histamines to combat the allergies which were affecting my lung condition and he gave me a regime of antibiotics for me to take daily.”

The Yates Fold resident was also prescribed rescue medications for when he experiences an exacerbation. By doing this he has managed to keep himself hospital free for two years.

He is now secretary of the Breathe Easy Group in Blackburn, which specialises in teaching those who are suffering from COPD how to better deal with and manage the condition. He urged smokers and others suffering from lung disease to join their monthly meetings and get help to manage the condition.

Dr Pervez Muzaffar, Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group’s lead for rehabilitation, said: “Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a disease which is not as transparent as it should be. Looking at the figures, many more sufferers could be treated if they only knew more about the condition and the steps which must be taken to treat it.”

For more information see: www.blf.org.uk/BreatheEasy/Detail/Blackburn-with-Darwen or call Carole Carlisle on 0151 224 7778.