A leading health charity today called on the Government to look more urgently at a little-known disease which claims around 800 lives in Northern Ireland every year.
The Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association (NICHSA) says that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects 80,000 people in the province.
COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease, all of which can occur together.
It is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK and mainly affects people over the age of 40. It occurs as a result of damage to the lungs, usually through smoking.
As World COPD Day was being marked today, NICHSA said sufferers find themselves not only struggling to breathe, but also anxious, isolated and often unable to cope financially.
The charity has established a network of five 'respiratory support co-ordinators', to help COPD sufferers and their families.