COPD/Emphysema often goes undiagnosed, sometimes for years, after it actually starts to cause damage to the airways and lungs. As the third leading cause of death in the United States, this is problematic.
When COPD is not diagnosed and treated, damage to the lungs can occur that could have been prevented or at least slowed down. And that can affect the quality of life for both the person who has COPD, as well as their family members.
The good news is that there is a brand new blood test being studied that may provide clues about COPD much easier. If people who are at risk, such as smokers and people heavily exposed to secondhand smoke, were to take the test, they may be able to start treatment much earlier, and thus live longer and better.
How the Test Works
The new test measures something called endothelial micro particles (EMP for short), which are shed as debris by the tiny capillaries that surround the air sacs in your lungs, as they are injured by the disease process of COPD.
These air sacs are where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurs in your body and when they are destroyed, you develop shortness of breath because you cannot take in the oxygen you need to feed your body. Nor can you remove the carbon dioxide waste from your blood.
The researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York who discovered this EMP shedding process found a 95 percent correlation between an elevated level of EMP and airway damage indicative of COPD. That means the blood test detected almost every case of early emphysema in the participants in their study.
This research was just announced in March of this year, so it's too soon to tell when it may become widely available. But if you think you may have COPD or be at risk for developing it, then you may want to discuss the possibility of this test with your physician.