How is COPD Diagnosed?

How is COPD Diagnosed?

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or what is referred to as COPD, is a lung condition where you experience hardship in your breathing. The two common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Unfortunately, most patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have both conditions.

In chronic bronchitis, you experience intense, long-term coughing, shortness of breath with mucus lingering on up to two years.

Emphysema, on the other hand, involves progressive lung damage. You experience shortness of breath because your lungs have a low oxygen supply from the damaged air sacs.

What Causes COPD?

The cigarette break is where it all begins. With every cigarette bat on the floor, your chances of developing COPD increase. However, some smokers are lucky, and they miss the COPD bullet. Non-smokers who lack the alpha-1 antitrypsin emphysema can also develop the disease. Although these are rare cases.

Besides smoking, other COPD triggers include;

  • Second-hand smoke and exposure to harmful gas pollution
  • Cooking over a fire with no ventilation can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Certain gases and fumes in industrious settings can lead to COPD over time


What are the early warning signs of COPD?

In the initial stages, symptoms may not be evident but as exposure to the above causes continues, the obstructive pulmonary disease COPD takes roots and manifests the below signs;

  • Persistent long term cough
  • The cough comes with a lot of mucus
  • You try to run, and shortness of breath won't let you
  • Wheezing sound when breathing
  • Uncomfortable tightness in your chest
  • Recurrent chest infections
  • Weight loss in advanced stages
  • Your leg swells around the ankles and feet

If untreated, the symptoms become worse, and you may experience what doctors call flare-up or exacerbation.


How do you get tested for COPD?

If your symptoms persist without improvement, then seek medical advice.

During your medical appointment, the doctor may ask the following to help diagnose COPD;

  • Seek further details on the symptoms you are experiencing
  • Use a stethoscope to listen to your chest and breathing
  • Want to know your smoking habits as well
  • Confirm past family history of lung problems
  • Finally, they calculate your body mass index to confirm any changes

For further confirmation of COPD, the doctor may request you to take a spirometry test for any other lung and airways tests.


What is a Spirometry

For a spirometry test, you inhale a bronchodilator, and then you breathe into a spirometer. 

The spirometer does two tests. One, it measures your air volume exhaled per second, and two the total amount of exhaled air. It's done several times to get accurate readings.

The doctor then compares the results to the average results of a person your age which indicates if there is any obstruction taking place.

Chest X-ray

A chest x-ray is another process that can help indicate COPD problems in your lungs. Further, an x-ray test can show any other diseases like check infections or lung cancer.

Blood Tests

Further tests using blood can help identify COPD symptoms, for example, low iron levels leading to anemia. As well as higher red blood cell concentration is known as polycythemia.

The blood test determines the presence of alpha-1-antitrypsin protein. If there is a 1 antitrypsin deficiency, your chances of getting obstructive pulmonary disease COPD increase. It's a rare genetic disorder affecting about 1% of people.

Additional COPD tests include;

A CT scan using an x-ray to give a detailed picture of the lungs. From the results, your doctor advises whether surgery will rule out lung cancer possibilities. The doctor may perform an arterial blood gas test to measure how your lungs are absorbing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.


With COPD, other health complications arise such as: 

  • Heart problems such as heart disease and more severe heart attacks are rampant in COPD cases, although doctors are not sure why. But stop smoking and lower your odds of such claims.
  • Lung cancer is a significant risk in COPD patients.
  • High blood pressure in your arteries is another risk factor to consider. Doctors call it pulmonary hypertension.
  • Respiratory complications are a major one from all the opportunistic diseases from ordinary cases of flu, to pneumonia.
  • Depression from dealing with the discomfort and not leading an everyday life affects COPD patients as well.

Despite all the above, with proper treatment and management, COPD doesn't have to put you down. No, on the contrary, it boosts you to make changes for the better.


How Do You Treat COPD?

Well, the bad news is, there is no cure yet. However, any treatment method you opt for aims to ease the symptoms and slow the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease progression.

The sure bet is to treat chronic pulmonary obstructive disease is to stop smoking.

Otherwise, other treatments may include;

  • The use of Corticosteroids drugs to reduce inflammation in your airwaves. One can either use an inhaler or swallow pills.
  • You can use antibiotics to fight any bacterial infections from arising.
  • Using Roflumilast or Daliresp drug stops the production of an enzyme called PDE4. Additionally, it prevents flare-ups where COPD has caused chronic bronchitis.
  • Getting pneumonia or flu vaccine significantly reduces your chances of getting COPD.
  • If you are frequently short of breath, oxygen therapy helps improve your breathing while protecting your organs from further damage.
  • Bronchodilators are super useful in easing up COPD episodes. Use them to open up your airways and your overall breathing. Some treatments combine steroids with bronchodilators for better results.
  • Finally, pulmonary rehabilitation is another excellent method that involves improving your overall health and quality of life using exercises. In addition to exercising, you are guided on how to manage the disease better.

Unfortunately, in severe COPD cases, surgery may remedy your symptoms. The processes may include:

  • A lung volume reduction surgery where the doctor removes affected lung tissue.
  • Bullectomy is another bet for you. The surgeons remove bullae, the massive air spaces left after your air sacs collapse.
  • In extreme conditions, if your lungs have wholly given up, a lung transplant could be a viable option for you.


How to Live with COPD

Some changes you could adopt to stay healthy may include;

  • The mother of them all is to quit smoking. Well, it's not easy, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. Your doctor may recommend appropriate support services to help you quit smoking.
  • Point one goes for second-hand smoke as well. Take care of your loved ones when engaging in a cigarette session.
  • Give your body a properly nutritious diet. Eating well keeps your body healthy and ready to fight ailments. Exercise often to keep fit as well. Your diet should include fresh vegetables, grains, proteins for strength, and dairy products.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and your mucus thin.


Once you are diagnosed with COPD, for sure your life changes and a real lifestyle change is imminent. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are manageable with great care and positive changes in how we enjoy life.