COPD diagnosis and treatment

How is COPD diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) based on your symptoms, medical history, a physical examination and a test of how you are breathing, also known as spirometry.1

During spirometry testing, the doctor will ask you to blow into a tube, and the test will record the different measurements of air volume and pressure as you breathe out. Some doctors may also recommend that you have an X-ray or CT scan, so they can have a closer look at your lungs.

In some cases, a blood test may be used to assess the levels of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in your blood.

How is COPD treated?

Although there is currently no cure for COPD, there are treatments available to relieve its symptoms, and slow down its long-term development.

Recommended treatments may include:

  1. Quitting smoking. If you’re a smoker, the most essential part in preventing your COPD from progressing any further is to quit smoking.2
  2. Medications. These include various inhalers, steroids and antibiotics as needed to help you manage your symptoms, and reduce the frequency and severity of flare ups (also known as acute exacerbations).2
  3. Pulmonary rehabilitation. A program combining exercise with education about your disease  will also help you cope with symptoms, and better manage your COPD.2
  4. Nutritional changes. For some people with COPD, dietary changes can help patients feel better.2
  5. Oxygen therapy. For patients with inadequate levels of oxygen saturation in their blood (a condition known as hypoxia), oxygen therapy can help.2
  6. Non-invasive ventilation.  Adding non-invasive ventilatory support to conventional therapy can reduce breathlessness, and improve respiratory rate and blood gas exchange.2 It can also improve quality of life.5

How can non-invasive ventilation help in COPD treatment?

Because COPD affects your ability to breathe properly (inhaling enough oxygen and exhaling enough carbon dioxide), you can end up with 2 problems:

  1. Not enough oxygen in your bloodstream (Hypoxia)
  2. Too much carbon dioxide in your bloodstream (Hypercapnia) 

Although oxygen therapy can address low levels of oxygen, it does not address carbon dioxide retention, but non-invasive ventilation can.3

With increasing evidence supporting the use of non-invasive ventilation, it is becoming a more widely used therapy alongside standard treatments for certain patients. Some of these observed benefits of non-invasive ventilation include shorter hospital stays and readmission rates, reduced need for invasive intubation,4 and improved survival and quality of life.5

If you have hypercapnic symptoms, such as shortness of breath and morning headaches, you can ask your doctor about non-invasive ventilation.

ResMed provides non-invasive ventilators that are suitable for people with COPD.  

Learn more about ResMed’s ventilators

References

  • 01

    Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). “Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management and Prevention of COPD, 2015.” Goldcopd.com. http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD_Report_2015_Sept2.pdf (accessed November 9, 2015)

  • 02

    McKenzie DK et al. The COPDX Plan: Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2003. Med J Aust. 2003;178(6):S15-29.

  • 03

    Brill SE and Wedzicha JA. Oxygen therapy in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2014;9:1241–1252.

  • 04

    Galli JA et al. Home non-invasive ventilation use following acute hypercapnic respiratory failure in COPD. Respir Med. 2014;108(5):722-8.

  • 05

    Koehnlein T et al. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation for the treatment of severe, stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a prospective, multicentre, randomised, controlled clinical trial. Lancet Resp Med 2014;2:698-705.

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