About COPD

COPD Progression


In order to make his or her diagnosis, the doctor will likely start by asking about your loved one's family history and if he or she has been exposed to any irritants that may cause COPD, such as tobacco smoke. The doctor may also perform some tests that may include:

  • Chest x-ray or chest CT scan to painlessly get an image of your loved one’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels
  • Spirometry test to measure how fast your loved one can breathe air out of their lungs

The results of tests like these may help identify if your loved one has COPD or if another condition, such as asthma or heart failure, is causing their symptoms.

Disease Progression

COPD is a progressive disease, meaning that it continues to get worse over time. Individuals living with COPD will usually experience a slow and steady progression of symptoms, marked by occasional flare-ups or exacerbations that may lead to hospitalization.

As symptoms worsen, they may prevent your loved one from participating in certain activities, and may make it more difficult for them to leave the home. This is especially true of more advanced COPD, which is linked with increased fatigue and feelings of anxiety or depression.

Because COPD will progress over time, one of the most important things you can do is proactively manage symptoms from the start. If you think your loved one may have COPD or if he or she has already been diagnosed, working early to care for the condition may reduce the likelihood of exacerbations and could slow the progression of the disease.

While there is no cure for COPD, there are many medication options available that may help manage symptoms and some basic lifestyle changes that could have a positive impact on the development of your loved one's COPD.

copd outlook

Sudden declines in lung function shown above, occurs from emergency hospital admissions.

Adapted from BMJ, Illness Trajectories and Palliative Care, Scott A. Murray

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