ALL people over the age of 60 must be checked for an incurable lung disease, patients have told MSPs.

Patients with Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) also want GPs to make checking for the “insidious” condition a routine part of appointments for all.

ILD covers a range of conditions which leads to scarring on lung tissue, making it harder for oxygen to get into the bloodstream.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, tiredness and weight loss.

There are no statistics available for the number of people in Scotland with ILD, although its estimated that 30,000 people in the UK are living with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), which is one of the main causes.

Average survival is said to be just three years from diagnosis, with campaigners describing it as an “insidious, incurable, progressive disease”.

However, the condition can be mitigated by medication, making better diagnosis a priority.

The condition can be detected by a “distinctive crackle” when doctors listen to the chest, campaigner James MacLachlan told MSPs yesterday, but not all GPs “are fully trained” to look for this.

With awareness levels of the condition low, he told Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee that people often delay going for help when symptoms first emerge.

MacLachlan, one of those who brought the petition to Holryood and has been diagnosed with ILD, said there was a need to bring it “out of the shadows and open it to public awareness”. He said he had put his increasing breathlessness down to “age and asthma”.

And Jean Watson, who also has the health problem, revealed the impact it has had on her life.

She said: “Things like changing a duvet cover I can’t do, simple things like bending over to tie your shoelaces, you feel a bit dizzy and you end up sitting down again.

“Although I can walk about a bit on the level, stairs are practically impossible so I always look for lifts.

“If I’m going anywhere I plan a route that doesn’t have a slope up the way, but I can cope with a slope down the way.”

She continued: “This condition causes a debilitating loss of physical ability, leading to people being unable to care for themselves.

“The impact on their daily live is considerable, from simple daily activities like looking after their house, to experiencing emotional problems and feelings of isolation.

“As this is an incurable condition we feel there is considerable need to raise awareness of ILD to assist earlier diagnosis and create a consistent approach to care throughout Scotland.”

MSPs agreed to look into the matter, with committee convener Johann Lamont saying: “We recognise the importance of what you’ve brought here today and the significance of it.”

Joseph Carter, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, commented: “It is a sad fact that only one in five people who have IPF will go on to live longer than five years after diagnosis.

“Much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the terrible impact that lung disease has on people’s lives.

“Lung disease is the UK’s third biggest killer and it poses serious challenges to our NHS. Early diagnosis is key to reducing the number of lives lost to lung disease.

“Through its forthcoming respiratory action plan, the Scottish Government has a major opportunity to give IPF the priority that it deserves in our health service.

“They must seize the opportunity to transform respiratory care services and bring forward the day where no-one is left breathless from lung disease.”