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COPD Diagnosis and Treatment: What to Expect

12 Aug 2016
| Under COPD, Disease Education, Lung Disease | Posted by | 13 Comments
COPD Diagnosis and Treatment: What to Expect

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you probably have lots of questions about your COPD diagnosis and treatment. Because COPD and other chronic lung diseases are chronic and progressive, the disease worsens over time. Finding the right COPD treatment plan is essential to maintaining and improving your quality of life. Here are a few facts about what you can expect with your COPD diagnosis and treatment to help you stay informed and proactive in your healthcare.

What will your doctor want to know to help make a COPD diagnosis and treatment plan?

Your doctor will want to know if you:

  • Have a history of smoking
  • Have been exposed to secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes or dust
  • Experience shortness of breath, chronic cough or lots of mucus
  • Have family members who have had COPD

What is a COPD diagnosis?

COPD is characterized by the restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs, making breathing difficult. Many people with COPD have trouble walking short distances and are susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia. The term COPD also encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The causes of COPD include smoking, having the alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and long-term exposure to inhaled pollutants. The severity of symptoms ranges from mild to severe and include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, recurrent infections and more.

How does the doctor diagnose COPD?

In the process of diagnosing COPD, a doctor will ask about the patient’s symptoms and medical history, do a physical exam and conduct breathing tests. The most common breathing test used to verify a COPD diagnosis is spirometry. A pulmonary function test, such as the spirometry test, is a common office test that is used to assess how well your lungs are working by measuring how much air you inhale and exhale, and how quickly you exhale. The spirometry is used to diagnose asthma, COPD and other diseases that affect breathing. This simple and painless test involves breathing into a large hose connected to a spirometer, a machine that measures how much air your lungs hold and how fast you can blow as much of the air out of your lungs as possible.

COPD Diagnosis and Treatment: What to Expect

What can you expect for a spirometry test?

According to the National Library of Health, in a seated spirometry test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that is connected to an instrument called a spirometer. The spirometer records the amount and the rate of air that you breathe in and out over a period of time. The most important issue is to perform the test always while in the same position.

Before you do a spirometry test, a nurse, a technician or your doctor will give you specific instructions. Listen carefully and ask questions if something is not clear. Doing the test correctly is necessary for accurate and meaningful results.

For some of the test measurements, you can breathe normally. Other tests require forced inhalation or exhalation after a deep breath. Sometimes you will be asked to inhale a substance or a medicine to see how it changes your test results. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

What do the results mean for COPD diagnosis and treatment?

The spirometry test will provide you with a number of values that your doctor will explain. These values are based upon your age, height, ethnicity and gender. All results are displayed as a percentage. Any value that is listed under 80 percent is considered abnormal and may indicate signs of a lung disease.

In a post from the Mayo Clinic, key measurements from a spirometry test will include:

  • Forced vital capacity (FVC): This is the largest amount of air that you can forcefully exhale after breathing in as deeply as you can. A lower than normal FVC reading indicates restricted breathing.
  • Forced expiratory volume (FEV-1): This is how much air you can force from your lungs in one second. This reading helps your doctor assess the severity of your breathing problems. Lower FEV-1 readings indicate more significant obstruction.

Some lung diseases (such as emphysemaasthmachronic bronchitis and infections) can make the lungs contain too much air and take longer to empty. This test will help determine if you are suffering from any of these conditions.

COPD Diagnosis and Treatment

In addition to pulmonary function tests and spirometry, your doctor may also want you to have a chest x-ray and/or other tests, such as an arterial blood gas test, which measures the oxygen level in your blood. The arterial blood gas test shows how well your lungs are able to move oxygen into and carbon dioxide out of your blood. If you are diagnosed with COPD, your doctor will most likely discuss a traditional treatment plan with you. Many doctors prescribe inhalers, steroids, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation to their patients as part of their COPD treatment plan.

It’s important to listen to a doctor’s sage advice about your COPD diagnosis and treatment plan. It is equally important that you seek a treatment that fits your lifestyle and provides you with the results you seek. Many patients have found alternative treatments, such as stem cell therapy, helpful to improve their breathing. If you or a loved one suffers from a progressive lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help. The Lung Institute uses your own body’s powerful stem cells to promote healing. Contact us today for a free consultation or call us at (800) 729-3065.


  1. h Jordan

    7 months ago

    I have had COPD for over 40 years and still not on oxygen. How have I done this, execise and walk daily, no sugars other than natural bee honey, limit or no dairy products and other mucus thinking foods, air cleaners in my home, stay active

  2. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Kathy,

    Thanks for your comment. While there are many treatment options to improve breathing and manage symptoms, such as medications, inhalers, oxygen therapy, alternative medicines and stem cell therapy, there is not a cure for COPD. Unfortunately, COPD will worsen over time. While many people see improvements in their breathing and overall quality of life after stem cell treatment, as with any medical procedure, there are some who don’t see the results they were hoping to see. Remember to continue to see your doctor regularly and to work together on your treatment plan. If you have any questions for your patient coordinator, please feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  3. Kathy Rodriguez

    1 year ago

    I wish you would not let people think that stem cell therapy is gonna cure everything. I went thru the therapy and it sure didn`t help me very much. I`m breathing worse now than I ever was.

  4. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Cytherea,

    While there is no cure for COPD, meaning something to completely take it away, there are many treatment options available to help ease and manage COPD symptoms. For example, certain types of medications are used to reduce inflammation in the lungs, and others are used to open the airways to help someone breathe easier. Stem cell therapy uses the patient’s own stem cells to promote healing from within the lungs. While stem cell therapy and traditional treatments aren’t cures, these therapies can help people with COPD breathe easier and improve their quality of life. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell therapy, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  5. Cytherea

    2 years ago

    Hello, I have “COPD” I read that if you have COPD there is no cure or therapy time takes care of it. If this is the case and true, then Stem Cell will not help. Therapy Please help me to understand. In April my Dr.s gave me a CTScan and discovered a spot on my Lungs , with this I have been on Oxygen 24/7 which I was on before @night only. I want to feel better. Is there any hope for me. God help us All. Thank You Cytherea

  6. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Louise,

    Because COPD and emphysema affect everyone differently and at different rates, keeping a close eye on your lungs is important. We recommend seeing your doctor regularly, even if you’re feeling well, so that you and your doctor can work together to create or modify your treatment plan as needed. Your doctor will know what tests are needed to keep a close eye on your lungs.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  7. Louise Meyer

    2 years ago

    I was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema about 14 years ago and have been on oxygen since then. I was a smoker for many years but did quit after the diagnosis. I have not had further testing since the initial visits to the pulmonologist nor has my physician done any testing in his office. Xrays done in the ER have evidently shown no change. (I am a 73 year old female). Should I be concerned about the lack testing?

  8. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Pamela,

    Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, at this time, insurance companies don’t cover treatment. However, we’re hopeful that treatment will be covered by insurance companies in the near future. Keep in mind that it will take some time before the insurance companies see a financial benefit in their favor and then decide to cover it. Feel free to check out our blog about stem cell therapy and insurance by clicking here. In the meantime, you can learn more about stem cell treatment options and have your questions answered by one of our patient coordinators. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  9. pamela L taylor

    2 years ago

    Does insurance cover stem cell therapy

  10. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Tom,

    We’re sorry to hear that you are going through such a difficult time. Many patients have seen positive results with stem cell therapy, including improved quality of life. We’re happy to answer any questions you have regarding stem cell therapy, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  11. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Tony,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s good to hear that you are living a smoke-free life. It’s good that you and your doctor are working together to manage your COPD. If you’re interested in learning more about stem cell therapy, feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We are happy to answer your questions, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  12. Tom carroll

    2 years ago

    My lungs seem to be getting worse and I am truly At a loss as what to do

  13. tony marrone

    2 years ago

    was told after 20years of tests that the last xray showed the start of copd my doctor said not to worry i am 71 my doctor said that’s it’s in early stages ,most at my age have it real bad by 65 i stopped smoking at 50 21 years ago my lung test are good .

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