Getting a COPD diagnosis
If you think you have COPD, it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner your doctor can prescribe a COPD treatment plan that can help you manage your symptoms, may improve your lung function, and may even reduce flare-ups. Here are some things your doctor might do.
Your doctor will gather information
Your doctor can ask you about your health, examine you for symptoms, and may give you certain tests.
A COPD diagnosis is based on a combination of the following factors:
- Your respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, chronic cough, and coughing up mucus
- Your medical history, which may include a history of COPD exacerbations, smoking, or exposure to risk factors like secondhand smoke, air pollution, or dust, as well as a family history of COPD
- Your lung function level, assessed by a spirometry test
Your doctor may use this information to classify your COPD and prescribe the right treatment plan for you.
Your doctor may also suggest dietary changes, special exercises, and other things you can do to help manage your COPD. This may sound like a tall order, but everything works together to help you lead a fuller, more active life.
You may be given a few tests
A Spirometry Test — Also known as lung or pulmonary function test, this is a part of diagnosing COPD.
During this test, you'll be asked to inhale as much as you can, hold your breath, and then quickly and forcefully blow into a large tube connected to a spirometer. The test measures:
- Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1) — how much air you blow out in the first second of that long breath out
- Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) — the total amount of air you blow out
Other tests you may be given are:
Chest X-rays and CT Scans — These tests can provide a detailed look at your lungs, blood vessels, and heart.
Arterial Blood Gas Test — This test measures the oxygen level in your blood; it can show how well your lungs are able to move oxygen into your blood and remove carbon dioxide from your blood.
Your doctor may also test for any medical conditions in addition to COPD, such as heart disease or diabetes — and evaluate you for anxiety or depression. Diagnosing and treating your other conditions can improve your ability to manage COPD.