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How do I know if I have COPD?

Or in other words, how is a person diagnosed with COPD?

  1. 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.

    1. 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: what-is- spirometry/

      1. 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: 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).

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