Diagnosing COPD

More than 125,000 people in Scotland have a diagnosis of COPD. In addition, about twice this number (another 250,000 people) have COPD but do not know it.

The sooner you get a diagnosis and get the right treatment, the better your prospects are. Early treatment of COPD can make a big difference.copd-wallet-card

Your doctor might suspect that you have COPD if you are over 35 years, you smoke or have smoked in the past and you have any of the following:

  • A cough that has lasted a long time and won’t go away
  • You get short of breath easily when you exert yourself
  • You often cough up sputum (phlegm)
  • You ‘wheeze’ when breathing
  • You have frequent chest infections, especially during the winter

If your doctor thinks that you might have COPD, he or she may ask you more about your symptoms and your history. The doctor will examine you by listening to your chest and looking at other parts of your body (such as your fingers and ankles) to exclude any other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

To confirm your diagnosis, your doctor will check how well your lungs work by asking you to do some breathing tests (spirometry).

You may also need some other tests to help your doctor decide on the best way to manage your symptoms.

Find out more about the tests involved in diagnosing COPD in the CHSS booklet Living with COPD (PDF).