Diagnosis of COPD
A chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) diagnosis is confirmed by a simple test called spirometry, which measures how deeply a person can breathe and how fast air can move into and out of the lungs.
Diagnosis of COPD should be considered in any patient who has symptoms of a chronic cough, sputum production, dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing) and a history of exposure to risk factors for the disease.
Where spirometry is unavailable, clinical symptoms and signs, such as abnormal shortness of breath and increased forced expiratory time, can be used to help with the diagnosis. A low peak flow is consistent with COPD, but may not be specific to COPD because it can be caused by other lung diseases and by poor performance during testing.
Chronic cough and sputum production often precede the development of airflow limitation by many years, although not all individuals with cough and sputum production go on to develop COPD. Because COPD develops slowly, it is most frequently diagnosed in people aged 40 years or over.