COPD is a chronic disease that makes it difficult for you to breathe. It’s important to diagnose the disease early. If treatment is started early, you may be able to slow the worsening of symptoms.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of COPD, or if you have a family history of COPD, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. They will play a major role in the diagnosis and management of COPD.
If your doctor determines that you do in fact have COPD, they will most likely prescribe medication to help control your symptoms. They will advise you on other treatments and lifestyle changes as well.
Your doctor may also refer you to specialists.
Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist. A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in conditions of the lungs and respiratory tract. Pulmonologists complete an additional two or three years of medical training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of lung and respiratory problems. A pulmonologist treats COPD as well as other serious respiratory conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, and emphysema.
A respiratory therapist (RT) is a trained healthcare professional who works with patients who have heart and lung problems. An RT may guide you through breathing treatments and exercises to help you breathe better.
To make the most of your visit with the doctor, it’s helpful to take along some information that will be needed to make an accurate diagnosis. Finding the information ahead of time will help you give the right answers when your doctor asks.
It’s also helpful to have a list of questions you would like to ask the doctor. Having them written down in advance assures that you won’t forget anything important you want to ask. It’s a good idea to put your questions in order of importance with the most important first. That way, if you run out of time, you will have asked the ones that matter most.
Information to Bring to Your Appointment
Your doctor will want to know the following:
- What symptoms you’re having
- When your symptoms started
- What makes you feel better
- What makes you feel worse
- If anyone in your family has COPD
- If you’re being treated for any other medical conditions
- What medications do you take and in what amounts
- If you’ve ever taken beta blockers
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask
In addition to the above information, you can expect your doctor to ask a number of questions.
- Do you smoke?
- Have you ever smoked?
- Are you regularly exposed to secondhand smoke?
- Do you work around dust or other pollutants?
- Do you cough up mucus?
- If so, what color is it?
- Do you get short of breath easily?
- How long has this been going on?
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
The following are suggested questions you might want to ask. You should add your own to the list.
- Do I have COPD?
- Do I have emphysema or bronchitis or both?
- What treatment do you suggest?
- Will I need to take medications for the rest of my life?
- Will I get better?
- What else can I do to feel better?
Anxiety, depression, stress, and fear are common with COPD. These tend to increase as the disease gets worse. It can be very helpful to talk about how you feel. Share your concerns with your healthcare team, as well as with your family and friends.
You might want to join a support group. It can help to see how other people are coping with the same condition. If you feel overwhelmed or very depressed, professional counseling might help. Your doctor can refer you to local support groups and counselors. They may also prescribe medication to help you cope.
You may find additional information and support from the following organizations:
- American Lung Association
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
- COPD Foundation