Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The diagnostic process for COPD includes a thorough medical history and physical examination.
Patients with COPD usually are current or past smokers over the age of 40 with a history of shortness of breath upon physical exertion and chronic productive cough. The physical examination may show a barrel chest, decreased breath sounds, and wheezing.
Signs of right-sided heart failure, such as edema, tender liver, and distended abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation in the abdomen; called ascites) may be noted as well. COPD is a diagnosis of history (in the case of chronic bronchitis), or a diagnosis of anatomy (in the case of emphysema). Clubbing of the fingers rarely occurs in COPD and warrants investigation for other causes.