Blood test may detect emphysema in smokers prior to symptoms

Apr 18, 2011

A new blood test may be able to detect emphysema before symptoms develop.

Researchers may have discovered a blood test that can detect emphysema in patients well before symptoms begin to develop, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

According to researchers, the blood test can measure particles given off by the capillaries surrounding air sacs in the lungs, which are a result of ongoing injury to the alveoli. As the lung injury progresses, damage becomes so severe that it limits the amount of oxygen blood can carry to the lungs, researchers said.

Researchers hope that the use of such a blood test to inform smokers of their risk of developing emphysema will help them find the resolve to quit.

"We know, from other studies, that smokers who learn from objective evidence that their health is in danger are much more likely to quit," said lead researcher Dr. Ronald Crystal. "That is the only thing that will help them avoid this deadly disorder."

Smoking has been connected to a number of life-threatening illness in addition to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. As the emphysema blood test develops further, life insurance companies may be interested in the test for determining approval decisions for applicants who smoke.

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