COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) (cont.)

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What kind of doctor treats COPD?

COPD is a long-term disease that can be progressive, so along with the patient's primary care physician, a pulmonologist specialist who treats lung disease is consulted to manage COPD symptoms with medications and other diagnostic tests. In addition pulmonary rehabilitation specialists that can help with teaching the patient breathing exercises, physical and muscle strengthening along with nutritional counseling can help reduce COPD symptoms.

Depression and anxiety are common problems in individuals with COPD so having a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist on the patient's medical team can provide treatment for symptoms of depression or anxiety, provide counseling for the patient and/or family members, and help with setting up support networks.

Other medical professionals such as surgical specialists may be consulted if the patient qualifies for a lung transplant or requires lung reduction surgery for severe emphysema or needs other lung surgery.

In emergency situations, patients will COPD may be treated by emergency medicine physicians or medical intensivists.

Your physician may suggest consultation with individuals to help you stop smoking, a common problem for people with COPD.

When to Seek Medical Care for COPD

A person should see their doctor if they experience any of the signs and symptoms of COPD and are members of a high-risk group for developing COPD, such as people who smoke.

In general, patients who notice an increasing shortness of breath that wasn't present recently, especially with any minor exertion, should make an appointment to see their doctor. People already diagnosed with COPD who notice an increase in symptoms should also see their doctor quickly.

How is COPD diagnosed?

COPD is preliminarily diagnosed in a person with COPD symptoms by

  • his/her breathing history,
  • the history of tobacco smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or
  • air pollutants, and/or a history of lung disease (for example, pneumonia).

Other tests to diagnose COPD

Other tests to diagnose COPD include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • CT scan
  • Arterial blood gas or a pulse oximeter to look at the saturation level of oxygen in the patient's blood

In addition, the person may be sent to a lung specialist (pulmonologist) to determine their FEV1 level that is used by some physicians to stage COPD as described above in the section that describes the stages of COPD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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