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COPD Diagnosis

COPD Diagnosis and Treatment

COPD slowly damages your airways, the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. COPD makes airways swollen and partly blocked by mucus. It also damages in the tiny air sacs at the tips of your airways. This makes it hard to move air in and out of your lungs.

How is COPD Diagnosed?

People with COPD usually have one or more of these symptoms:

  • A cough that lasts a long time, and is filled with mucus
  • Feeling short of breath, especially when making an effort (climbing stairs, exercising)
  • Many lung infections that last a long time (the flu, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.)
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound while breathing)
  • Constantly feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Losing weight without trying

People might think that feeling short of breath is a normal sign of aging— but it’s not. If you have these signs and symptoms, see your doctor

Your Doctor will assess your physical condition and discuss COPD with you. There are three common tests used to assist in diagnosing COPD:

Spirometry
Spirometry is a common, effective diagnostic test typically performed at a hospital or clinic. The machine measures how long it takes to blow out all the air from your lungs. The more blocked your airways, the longer it takes to blow the air out.

Chest x-ray
The x-ray will help the doctor see if there is damage to your lungs.

Blood Gas Test
Blood is drawn, usually from the wrist, to determine oxygen levels in the blood.

COPD Treatments

There is no cure for COPD, but there are good treatments:

  • Quitting smoking, and staying away from smoke and air pollution
  • Taking COPD medications, which can include pills and inhalers (puffers)
  • Home Oxygen Therapy
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation programs, where exercise and COPD management are taught

People with COPD can take other steps to manage their symptoms:

  • Recognize and treat COPD flare-ups (worsening symptoms)
  • Use special breathing techniques when experiencing shortness of breath
  • Make lifestyle changes to save energy and feel better: simplify chores, eat well, and make other healthy changes