Your doctor will diagnose COPD based on your signs and symptoms, your medical and family histories, and test results.
Your doctor may ask whether you smoke or have had contact with lung irritants, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust.
If you have an ongoing cough, let your doctor know how long you've had it, how much you cough, and how much mucus comes up when you cough. Also, let your doctor know whether you have a family history of COPD.
Your doctor will examine you and use a stethoscope to listen for wheezing or other abnormal chest sounds. He or she also may recommend one or more tests to diagnose COPD.
Lung function tests measure how much air you can breathe in and out, how fast you can breathe air out, and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood.
The main test for COPD is spirometry (spi-ROM-eh-tre). Other lung function tests, such as a lung diffusion capacity test, also might be used. (For more information, go to the Health Topics Lung Function Tests article.)
During this painless test, a technician will ask you to take a deep breath in. Then, you'll blow as hard as you can into a tube connected to a small machine. The machine is called a spirometer.
The machine measures how much air you breathe out. It also measures how fast you can blow air out.
Your doctor may have you inhale medicine that helps open your airways and then blow into the tube again. He or she can then compare your test results before and after taking the medicine.
Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms develop. Your doctor also might use the test results to find out how severe your COPD is and to help set your treatment goals.
Your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:
The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for COPD, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
November 15, 2013
NIH survey identifies barriers to effective patient-provider dialogue about COPD
Lack of communication between patients and health care providers about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains a major barrier to diagnosis of this disease, according to the results of a Web-based survey released today by the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.