Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)


To diagnose COPD, your health care provider will ask you questions about your health history. Some of the questions may include:

  • Do you currently smoke? Or did you smoke in the past?
  • How often are you short of breath?
  • What makes you shortness of breath worse?
  • Do you cough? How long have you been coughing?
  • Do you cough up sputum (phlegm, mucus)?
  • Does anyone or did anyone in your family have lung disease?
  • Did you have a lot of lung infections when you were younger?

Tests to Diagnose COPD


Spirometry is the most reliable way to diagnose COPD. It is a simple breathing test that measures the speed and the amount of air you are able to blow out of your lungs. If you have any of the symptoms
or are short of breath doing simple tasks, ask your healthcare provider about sending you for a spirometry test.

Chest X-ray

The chest x-ray will help the doctor see if there is damage to your lungs. An x-ray can show emphysema in your lungs. A chest x-ray alone is not enough to diagnose COPD; spirometry is the recommended test for a diagnosis.


This painless test measures how much oxygen is in your blood (oxygen saturation). Your doctor or another healthcare provider will clip a “probe” to your finger to measure and monitor the saturation of
oxygen in your blood. This alone does not diagnose COPD but could be one of the tests that leads to a diagnosis.

Other tests

Your healthcare provider may order other tests like a CT scan, blood work and other laboratory tests. Blood work and/or other lab tests are done in combination with other tests for a proper diagnosis.


This page was updated November 2019.

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Page Last Updated: 20/11/2019