COPD Diagnosis and Treatment Pulmonology

Everything You Need To Know About COPD Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of COPD

COPD is a condition that can be easily misdiagnosed. It is also the most commonly misdiagnosed condition. Hence, most patients remain undiagnosed until the disease is advanced.

In order to diagnose COPD, the doctor reviews signs and symptoms experienced by the patient, discusses the family and medical history, and any exposure to lung irritants such as cigarette smoke.

The following tests are usually recommended to diagnose your condition:

Lung (pulmonary) Function Tests

These tests can accurately measure the air a patient inhales and exhales. Additionally, it can determine the capacity of the lungs to deliver enough oxygen to the blood. The most common test is called 'spirometry,' wherein the patient must blow into a large tube connected to a small machine. It will measure the air the lungs can hold and the pace at which the patient can blow the air out of their lungs.

Other Lung Function tests include:

  • Pulse Oximetry
  • Measurement of lung volumes
  • Diffusing capacity
  • Six-minute walk test
  • Chest X-Ray: It can show emphysema, one of the leading causes of COPD, or rule out other lung problems or heart failure.
  • CT Scan: The doctor may conduct a CT scan of the lungs to detect emphysema and determine the need for surgery for COPD. The scan is also used for screening for lung cancer. 
  • Arterial Blood Gas Analysis: It measures the efficiency of the lungs to transport oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide.
  • Laboratory Tests: These tests determine the actual cause of symptoms or rule out other conditions (genetic disorder alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, a cause of COPD). Lab tests are prescribed if the patient has a family history of COPD and developed COPD at a young age.

Treatment of COPD

Most individuals with COPD have mild forms of the condition. Such situations require little therapy, including serious smoking cessation (for smokers). Advanced stages of the disease require effective therapy to control symptoms, slow the condition's progression and minimize the risk of complications and exacerbations. COPD treatment is mainly aimed at improving quality of life.

Quitting Smoking

This is the most crucial step towards COPD treatment. Quitting smoking can prevent COPD from worsening. It is advised to speak to a doctor about nicotine replacement products and medications that may prove helpful in managing relapses. Joining a support group is also a great way to handle symptoms when trying to quit smoking.


Symptoms and complications of COPD can be treated with various medications. These include:

  • Bronchodilators (inhalers for relaxing the muscles around the airways)
  • Inhaled steroids (corticosteroid medications)
  • Combination inhalers (a combination of bronchodilators and inhaled steroids)
  • Oral steroids
  • Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
  • Theophylline
  • Antibiotics

Lung Therapies

Additional therapies are usually recommended for people with moderate or severe COPD. These include the following:

  • Oxygen Therapy: Supplemental oxygen is prescribed if blood fails to receive ample oxygen. It can be given in the form of lightweight, portable units. The therapy improves the quality of life. 
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program: Pulmonary Rehabilitation generally involves a combination of counseling, education, exercise training, and nutrition advice under the guidance of a team of specialists.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: The program helps reduce the chances of readmission to the hospital and boosts the ability to participate in daily activities while improving quality of life. The program helps reduce the chances of readmission to the hospital and boosts the ability to participate in daily activities while improving quality of life.
  • In-Home Noninvasive Ventilation Therapy: Patients are put on a noninvasive ventilation therapy machine with a mask. It helps improve breathing and reduce carbon dioxide retention (hypercapnia), which minimizes the chances of acute respiratory failure and hospitalization. 
  • Managing Exacerbations: Patients may experience worsening symptoms for days or weeks. This phase is referred to as an acute exacerbation which may lead to lung failure if treatment is delayed. Doctors may suggest additional medications for exacerbation, such as steroids, antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, or treatment in the hospital.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be a treatment option for patients with severe emphysema who have failed to respond to medications. The surgical options include:
  • Lung Volume Reduction Surgery
  • Endoscopic Lung Volume Reduction
  • Lung Transplant
  • Bullectomy

It is important to remember that the treatment of COPD is individualized based on the severity of the disease and other factors. People with COPD should work closely with their Larkin healthcare providers to develop the right treatment plan.


COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a chronic and progressive condition that cannot be cured but can be managed with effective treatment and lifestyle modifications. Recovery after COPD exacerbation involves managing the disease and improving overall health.

After a COPD exacerbation, it is essential to follow a healthcare provider's instructions for treatment, including taking medications as prescribed and attending pulmonary rehabilitation is recommended. In addition, the following steps can help with recovery after a COPD exacerbation:

  • Rest: It is important to rest and conserve energy after a COPD exacerbation. This can help reduce inflammation and allow the lungs to recover.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and or fluids can help thin mucus and make it easier to cough up. This can help clear the airways and reduce symptoms.
  • Avoid triggers: Avoid exposure to irritants such as air pollution, smoke, and respiratory infections, which can worsen symptoms and trigger a COPD exacerbation.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough sleep can help improve overall health and manage COPD symptoms.
  • Attend follow-up appointments: It is important to attend regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare provider to monitor the disease and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Working closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan and make any necessary adjustments over time is essential. People with COPD can maintain a good quality of life and manage their symptoms with proper management and lifestyle changes.

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