Or in other words, how is a person diagnosed with COPD?
Lyn Harper, RRT Moderator
Your doctor will want details of all your symptoms. It would be good to keep track of them for a week or so before seeing your doctor so you have a list to show him. You may want to include the times you’re bothered and the duration of symptoms. He/she will do a physical exam that will include checking your lungs and your oxygen levels using a finger pulse oximeter. At some point they’ll want you to have a Pulmonary Function Test to determine how your lungs are functioning today. This will also serve as a baseline to watch progression as time goes on. You may also be asked to do what’s called a 6 Minute Walk. It is exactly that. You’ll have a pulse oximeter on your finger and the technician will watch for any dip in levels as you walk.
Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT Moderator
For people who have COPD, the most common symptoms include: persistent cough, an increase in mucus production, shortness of breath, wheezing, and a feeling of chest tightness. There are others, of course, but these are the most common that are characteristic of the disease. Diagnosis of the disease, by a physician, is made through a complete and thorough history and physical examination. Following that, a full pulmonary function test is administered to confirm the diagnosis, and stage the level of disease involvement. This article from our website will provide more details about pulmonary function testing: https://copd.net/answers/expert-answers- what-is- spirometry/
John Bottrell, RRT Moderator
As the disease “gradually” takes hold of your lungs, you may notice that you feel short of breath, especially when exerting yourself. You may also have a cough that doesn’t seem to go away. You may have increased sputum production (the most common color being yellow). A doctor will assess you, ask you questions, and will probably order laboratory tests, a chest x-ray, and pulmonary function test (PFT: https://copd.net/answers/expert-answers-what-is-spirometry/). There is no definitive test for diagnosing COPD, but all of these combined lead your doctor to a diagnosis of COPD (or rule it out).