Diagnosing COPD – What should my physician be looking for? If you are over 40, a current or ex-smoker, ask yourself:
1. Do I cough regularly?
2. Do I cough up sputum (mucus or phlegm) regularly?
3. Do even simple chores make me short of breath?
4. I wheeze when I exert myself, or at night?
5. Do I get frequent colds that last longer than those of other people I know?
Identifying signs of lung problems and exposure to harmful substances will help you and you doctor to figure out whether you are at risk for COPD. If you are a smoker then you are already at an 80-90% greater risk. After gathering information about your health history, your doctor may recommend Spirometry, a painless lung function test. As you blow hard into a small tube, a connected machine (spirometer) will measure how much air your lungs hold and how fast you can blow it out. Based on these measures your doctor can determine whether you have COPD and how severe it is. Your doctor should also be able to provide information about COPD prognosis, referring to how the disease will progress over time.
Other tests that your doctor may recommend include:
Chest X-ray – An x-ray can help your doctor see if there is damage to your lungs and if other conditions related to COPD, such as heart problems are present
Arterial blood test – A blood test to measure the level of oxygen in your blood.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency screening – If an alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is observed, it might be valuable to screen your family members as this deficiency can be passed on or inherited.