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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is progressive condition that significantly impacts your life. Our goal is to help you live well with COPD. The specially trained respiratory therapists at Doctors Hospital take the time to work with you on an individualized treatment and lifestyle plan to help you get back to the life you love.

lungs with copd

What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This means the airways in your lungs become blocked (obstructed) making it difficult to breathe out. COPD can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, heart failure, and sudden worsening of symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent COPD from progressing.

  • Chronic means it won't go away.
  • Obstructive means partly blocked.
  • Pulmonary means in the lungs.
  • Disease means sickness.


  • Difficulty breathing may lead to shortness of breath with mild activities such as walking or getting dressed
  • chronic cough,
  • wheezing,
  • feet and ankle swelling,
  • leaning forward to breathe
  • bluish color to lips, skin, or fingernails.

Diagnosing COPD

Diagnosing COPD includes a medical exam and testing. A breathing test can determine the extent to the problem. Your evaluation may include:

Pulmonary function tests (PFT) are the most common diagnostic test for COPD to show if you have abnormal lung functions. The most common lung test is a spirometry that measures how much air you can breathe in, then how much air you breathe out. How fast you can breathe this air out is also measured for airflow assessment. The spirometry is a good tool to see if your COPD is getting worse or if your medications are working.

Arterial blood gases are usually drawn from the wrist. They measure how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in your blood. The oxygen measurement can show if you need oxygen therapy.

Pulse oximetry is another tool to measure the oxygen in your blood. A small clip is placed on your finger and the oxygen is measured by the red light that shines on your finger. This can be measured at rest or after exercise.

Chest X-ray gives information on the size and shape of your lungs. The doctor can see if your lungs are too large (over-inflated). This may push down on your diaphragm that can look flatten on the chest x-ray.

CT Scan (Computed Tomography) provides images of your lungs with greater details than the chest x-ray.

Bronchoscopy is a procedure using a fiberoptic scope introduced into the lungs to assist physicians in diagnosing lung disorders including COPD.

Treatments for COPD

Doctors cannot cure COPD, but they can help to improve your symptoms and slow the damage to your lungs.

Diagnosing any breathing problem at an early stage is most important. The treatments and medications can help stop COPD from getting worse, in addition to making your life as comfortable as possible. The earlier this is done, the better your health will be.

  • Medications are prescribed to widen the airway (bronchodilators) and to reduce the swelling of the airway (anti-inflammatory drugs, such as steroids). Antibiotics are needed when lung infections are present. Learn the names of your medication, as well as how and when to use them.
  • Oxygen may be needed if the oxygen in your blood is too low. This therapy can make you feel better and tolerate activities.