Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Making a Diagnosis

To diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, your healthcare provider will likely ask you about your family and personal history and perform a physical exam. You may be asked to have pulmonary function tests, which find out:
 
  • The amount of air in the lung (called lung volume)
  • The rate of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange
  • The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.
 
Lung volumes are measured by breathing in and out of a device called a spirometer.
 
Researchers are still looking for a way to figure out a person's chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, because none of the current tests can find the disease before irreparable lung damage occurs.
 

Treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease requires a careful and thorough evaluation by a physician. The most important aspect of treatment is avoiding tobacco smoke and removing other air pollutants from the home or workplace. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication. Respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics, if appropriate. Patients who have low blood oxygen levels are often given supplemental oxygen.
 
(Click COPD Medications for more information.)
 
For individuals with severe symptoms, lung transplants may be an option. Lung volume reduction surgery (different types of surgeries that remove part of the lung) also is showing promise for some individuals in the last stages of emphysema.
 

Prevention

Early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease might alter its course and progress. A simple test can be used to measure pulmonary function and detect the disease in current and former smokers aged 45 and over, as well as anyone with respiratory problems. Avoiding tobacco smoke, home and workplace air pollutants, and respiratory infections are key to preventing the initial development of COPD.
 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Info

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