Many Black men with CT evidence of emphysema go undiagnosed because of the practice of race-based adjustments to spirometry testing, according to research presented at the American Thoracic Society’s ATS 2022 international conference.

Black adults in the United States are more likely to have unrecognized emphysema than white adults in part because of this practice, says the presenting author, Gabrielle Liu, MD, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Our study shows that many Black men with ‘normal’ lung function actually have evidence of abnormal lung health or emphysema,” she says.

Over 3 Million Americans Have Emphysema

More than three million people in the United States are living with diagnosed emphysema, according to the American Lung Association. The condition is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In healthy people, the air sacs in the lungs are elastic and stretchy and can expand and deflate with each breath, but in people with emphysema, damage to the air sacs makes it harder for the lungs to move oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the body.

With emphysema, the body does not get the oxygen it needs to function properly, and a person will experience symptoms such as frequent coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, according to MedlinePlus.

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