COPD is a progressive condition that keeps worsening until the patient finds it impossible to breathe. It is normally accompanied by signs such as shortness of breath, cough and other symptoms like weight loss.
With early detection and treatment, you can manage your COPD and even slow its progression.
A diagnosis of COPD requires several tests and procedures to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms.
This article will help you understand the different types of tests and procedures used to diagnose COPD, such Diagnostic Spirometry, High-Resolution Computerized Tomography (HRCT) scans, Arterial Blood Gas Analysis, Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), Methacholine Challenge Test, and Bronchoscopy.
What is COPD?
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. It is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time if left untreated. COPD is triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other indoor air contaminants.
The condition causes airflow obstruction in the lungs, which leads to shortness of breath, a feeling of not being able to get enough air, and coughing.
COPD can also cause a buildup of mucus in the lungs, which leads to a wheezing sound when breathing. The initial symptoms of COPD are similar to the symptoms of a common cold, so it is important to be aware of what to look for.
Regular therapy such as Pulmonary Rehabilitation can help to manage most symptoms of COPD. Likewise, simple steps can be taken at home, such as practising breathing exercises, taking care of your diet, and maintaining an active lifestyle
Standard lung function tests
Lung function tests are the most common way to diagnose COPD. They are simple and low-cost procedures performed by a healthcare provider.
They use a device to measure how much air you can breathe in and out. These tests include a clinical exam, spirometry, and lung function tests.
A clinical exam is a visual inspection of your lungs and airways. Spirometry measures the amount of air you can breathe in and out. Lung function tests use a device to measure how much air you can breathe in and out. These tests include a carbon monoxide diffusing capacity test, a diffusing capacity test, and a flow-volume test.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan
This is an imaging technique used to create a cross-sectional image of the lungs. A CT scan is often used to rule out other conditions that may cause COPD-like symptoms.
A CT scan can reveal any abnormalities in the lungs. It can also detect an infection, lung cancer, blood clots, or other diseases that can cause symptoms similar to COPD.
CT scans emit radiation, which means they can increase your risk of developing cancer. A CT scan is generally safe for adults, but it should be avoided when possible in children.
High-resolution CT scan
A high-resolution CT scan is similar to a standard CT scan. However, the doses of radiation are higher with a high-resolution CT scan, so it is only used when necessary.
A high-resolution CT scan is useful in diagnosing COPD because it can detect abnormalities in the lungs, such as fluid collection and tumor growth. It can also detect clots in the lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism.
A high-resolution CT scan should be avoided in pregnant women, children, people with a recent diagnosis of lung cancer, and people with a history of radiation therapy.
Arterial blood gas analysis
This test is used to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. It can help diagnose COPD because it can reveal a low level of oxygen in the blood due to airway obstruction.
Arterial blood gas analysis is performed by inserting a needle into the artery in your wrist. This procedure does not produce a lot of discomfort, but it can be quite painful. There is a small risk of infection and an allergic reaction.
This test should be avoided in people who have a history of blood clots and those who are at risk of heart disease.
Peak expiratory flow (PEF) test
The PEF test is used to diagnose asthma and identify COPD. It measures how much air you can breathe out in one second.
This test can help identify airflow obstruction due to the common symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing, and a cough. A PEF test may be performed with a spirometry test.
The PEF test can also be used to track your lung function over time. This can help track the progression of COPD and show if your treatment is working.
The PEF test can be uncomfortable and frightening for children, so it is best to avoid it when possible.
Methacholine challenge test
This test is used to diagnose and rule out asthma. It measures how your airways respond to a specific substance that causes airway narrowing.
This test is often recommended for people with a high suspicion of COPD, but without a clear diagnosis.
It is also used to monitor the progression of disease, rule out asthma, and determine the severity of the disease.
The methacholine challenge test is performed by breathing in a specific substance to narrow your airways. The test is performed in a controlled setting by a trained healthcare professional.
The methacholine challenge test can be uncomfortable and frightening for children, so it is best to avoid it when possible.
A bronchoscopy is a procedure that involves the insertion of a long, flexible tube (called a bronchoscope) through your mouth and into your lungs.
This procedure is used to rule out other conditions that can cause COPD-like symptoms and to collect samples from the lungs for testing. The procedure may be uncomfortable, but you will be given medication to reduce any discomfort.
A bronchoscopy is a safe procedure, but it does have certain risks. These risks include bleeding, infection, and the potential for the procedure to cause lung injury.
COPD, though potentially serious, is manageable as long as you take charge and actively manage your symptoms.
A diagnosis of COPD requires careful tests and procedures to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, if the doctor rules COPD is the cause of your symptoms then they will refer you to a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, like the one offered by Home Rehab Network.
Make sure to get your family and friends on board so you can all support each other with this journey that lies ahead.