Do I have COPD? This is a question many people may ask themselves after years of smoking or exposure to other types of airway irritants. Although a person can have COPD for many years without noticing symptoms, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be at risk for COPD, especially if youâ€™re a current or former smoker or youâ€™ve been exposed on a long-term basis to indoor or outdoor air pollution:
Most people with COPD donâ€™t seek treatment until they reach the more advanced states of the disease. Early recognition of symptoms can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment, which can greatly improve your quality of life with COPD.
Spirometry is a simple breathing test used to diagnose COPD. The test can be performed at your doctorâ€™s office or your local hospital or clinic. According to the COPD Foundation, anyone with the aforementioned symptoms with a history of exposure to airway irritants (smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollution, workplace exposure) should get tested for COPD. A spirometry test can also tell your doctor how severe your COPD may be (there are 4 stages).
Ignoring symptoms of COPD may cause the disease to worsen, which can negatively impact your prognosis (how long youâ€™ll live after being diagnosed). Getting tested can lead to an earlier diagnosis, which can greatly improve your quality of life and your prognosis.
 2014 Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smokingâ€”50 Years of Progress. Accessed 4/21/2016.
 Blanc, P.D., et. al. Occupational exposures and the risk of COPD: dusty trades revisited. Thorax 2009;64:6â€“12. doi:10.1136/thx.2008.099390.
 Web MD. COPD and Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) Deficiency – Topic Overview. Updated 9/9/2014.
 Tai, A.S.N., et. al. Pediatric origins of adult chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD): Childhood asthma. (Session A95, Sunday, May 16, 1:30-4:00 p.m., CC-Room 295-296 (Second Level), Morial Convention Center; Abstract 2206).
 Hayden, L.P., et. al. Childhood pneumonia increases risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the COPD Gene study. Respiratory Research. 2015. 16:115. DOI: 10.1186/s12931-015-0273-8.
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 COPD Foundation. Am I at Risk for COPD? Accessed 4/21/16.
By Deborah LeaderÂ RN, BSN, PHN