How is COPD diagnosed?

A COPD diagnosis is typically confirmed with spirometry, which measures lung function. Spirometry is the most common way doctors evaluate the level of airflow obstruction. During a spirometry test, you’ll be asked to blow into a large tube connected to a spirometer. This measures how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly you can expel that air from your lungs. Spirometry can detect COPD before you even experience any symptoms. Healthcare providers may also use chest x-rays or other tests to help diagnose COPD.

If you are diagnosed, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication and suggest dietary changes and exercises that can help. And don't
forget that family and friends can be a tremendous source of
support. If you are being tested for COPD, having a
friend or family member there with you may be helpful.
Many find that getting support from others with the
same condition may also be a good idea.

A COPD diagnosis can feel like something that turns your life upside down, but there are a lot of things you can do to manage COPD that might help you maintain a positive outlook. If you think about it, the earlier you know that you have the disease, the sooner you can start to manage it. And with the proper treatment, many people are able to slow down further loss of lung function.

Diagnosis and Moving Forward

Phil, Ron, Edna, Karen - Facing the diagnosis
Alice - I always keep my sunny side up

When I retired from teaching grade school, I caught a very bad cold. I was very sick. There were some rough days, where I could not breathe, I was so short of breath. My doctor told me because I was a smoker, that cold was much worse. That's when he broke the news to me. He says, "Alice, you have COPD." I think I had it for quite a while. I just wasn't aware. I had smoked for 31 years. I quit smoking about eight years ago.

It was kind of disheartening when I found out that I had COPD. It kind of knocked me back for a loop, but I have a strong character and I knew that it wasn't going to get me down and I was going to keep going. I've learned to live with it. I'm watching a little bit more what I eat, exercising a little bit more. I'm mindful of keeping my hands clean. I had to go on medication, and I had to change my lifestyle. You have your good days and you have your bad days, but I always keep my sunny side up.

Janet - I have learned so much

I was diagnosed back in '82 I think it was. I had chest pains one night and my husband called an ambulance and took me to the hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack, and when I got there they did all the tests and they determined that rather it was something with my lungs. So the following week I was tested at the hospital, and they determined that I had COPD. It was almost nine years later before I actually was given treatment.

When I was first diagnosed, I just didn't know what COPD was. It didn't really affect me one way or the other. I was a busy, busy lady. I knew I was struggling to breathe when exerting myself.

Now, I have a pulmonary doctor. He put me on a whole new schedule. And I have learned so much, gained such insight with my pulmonary support group. We meet once a month. And each month we have a professional speaker. There's a nurse practitioner that's the mentor of our group.

John - I really got serious about dealing with my condition

I dropped 12 pounds in a year and became very thin. I just didn't have the energy, and I knew something wasn't right. I was always short of breath. If I had to walk more than two blocks to my car I felt tired. That's what I think prompted me to make sure when I had my annual check-up to say, "I'm tired and I shouldn't be tired." The doctor said, "I'm going to have you go see a friend of mine that's a pulmonary doctor. You might have COPD." Okay. What's COPD? I hadn't even heard the term. I went to the pulmonologist, and he said, "Yeah, you've got COPD." I don't know if I was in denial, or what. But for the longest time I took my meds, went and saw him, but I didn't change anything, as far as how I live my life. I didn't stop smoking. I didn't really react, for actually a number of years.

When I really got serious about dealing with my condition, I realized it was so important to listen to my doctor and take my meds as prescribed, not to just use it as a cushion, but to take them daily. How important it was to stay active and exercise, to keep my core muscles strong. I have COPD and so is the glass going to be half-full, is the glass going to be half-empty? Is it going to be woe-is-me or okay I've got COPD what do I do now? Let's make this work.

Corazetter - You do your best to stay healthy

I got seriously sick with pneumonia. It happened three times, and that third time was the charm. I said "No more." No more smoking. But the damage had been done already, and the doctor said that I had to bring home oxygen with me. Then I went back to the doctor, he told me that I had COPD. I had heard of COPD but never gave it much thought, never ever thought that I would have to deal with it.

When I got that diagnosis, I had to do some research and find out exactly what it was and exactly what you needed to do to live with it. That started me to reading up as much as I could, going online and checking out information.

Now that I know more, I'm eating better and more mindful of eating more vegetables and fruits. Drinking more water, because I need to be hydrated. It helps to keep my weight down as well. So COPD is not something that you would invite, but you make the best of it and you do your best to stay healthy.

Patients with COPD are featured in the videos. GSK paid them for their time and expense in sharing their experiences living with COPD.

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