Ways & How

how to diagnose COPD

how to diagnose COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD) occurs when the lungs or parts of the lungs are severely damaged due to excessive smoking and inhalation of toxic gas and harmful particles, such as dust and chemicals. Over time, the tubes through which air travels to and from the lungs will be clogged. Mere suspicion that you have poor lung airways is not enough. Instead, you should know how to diagnose COPD correctly, so you can get the appropriate treatment. The symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the disease. Although only medical doctors can accurately tell whether or not you have COPD, you can do a self-diagnosis by understanding the symptoms. If you are unsure, see a doctor so you can undergo more medical examinations.

  1. Trace medical history. According to medicinenet.com, the disease is first diagnosed by looking at the patient’s medical history. COPD is usually detected in chronic smokers, especially when they develop shortness of breath, persistent coughing and lung infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

    People who previously experienced flu and chronic colds may eventually have COPD if their smoking habits still persist.

    A history of heavy tobacco smoking is commonly present among male COPD patients. Women, who are generally non-smokers, contract this disease because of their exposure to other risk factors, such as occupational exposure to toxic gas, fumes, dusts and solid fuel combustion.

  2. Check the presence of the usual symptoms. These are chest tightness, dyspnea or breathlessness and chronic cough. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in the U.S., chronic cough or smoker’s cough refers to “an ongoing cough or a cough that produces a large amount of mucus.” Another symptom is wheezing which, as explained by the Pulmonology Channel, is “heard only at night or with exertion.” As the disease develops, more serious indications may occur, such as weight loss and swelling of the extremities. The lips, nail beds and fingertips are likely to become bluish also.

  3. Check for signs of GERD. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux disease, is a health condition that indicates mucosal impairment due to the acid that travels from the stomach up to the esophagus. A very common sign of acid reflux is heartburn. Laryngo-pharyngeal reflux is another type of acid influx that does not produce heartburn, but it does show signs of respiratory and laryngeal problems. If you have any of these, then it is possible that you have contracted COPD.

  4. Undergo a chest X-ray. Persons affected with emphysema, which causes breathing impairment, may develop an enlarged chest and minimized lung markings, indicating damage of the lung tissue. The X-ray of a patient suffering from chronic bronchitis will reveal increased lung markings that represent scarred, thickened and inflamed airways. A specialized X-ray can accurately show a picture of impaired airways and lung tissue in COPD.

  5. Undergo a chest CT scan. The use of Computerized Tomography scan is not mainly for COPD diagnosis and management, but it only helps in evaluating the severity of emphysematous changes. It can also detect lung cancer at an early stage.

  6. Undergo a Spirometry exam. This is the usual pulmonary function test that determines the degree of airways obstruction. During the exam, the patient has to inhale and exhale forcefully and rapidly on a tube connected to a machine. The machine will then measure the degree of expired air. The volume of air expired just in one second is an accurate measurement of airflow obstruction. The result is compared to the forced vital capacity or the amount of air released from the lungs. The usual ratio of the air expired and forced vital capacity is 70 percent. When the ratio percentage is lower than that, it means there is airway obstruction.

Even though this disease is permanent, the quality and comfort of your life should not be affected. The steps we discussed on how to diagnose COPD correctly should help you to promptly detect the presence of the disease. In that way, you can be treated properly. While undergoing treatment, the most important thing to do is to completely stop smoking.


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