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Doctor taking notes as patient asks about COPD

7 Questions Everyone with COPD Should Ask After Diagnosis

Reading time | 4 mins
A COPD diagnosis can bring up a lot of questions. John Bottrell shares 7 essential questions everyone should ask their doctor.


You've been diagnosed with COPD. This can be a confusing and overwhelming time. There's a lot of information to process. 

Working with your healthcare team and asking the right questions can help you clarify how COPD affects you. Once you understand the condition, you can learn how to manage your symptoms.

Here are seven essential questions to ask your doctor.

1. What is COPD?

This is an excellent question to discuss with your doctor. It's also something you can research on your own through credible sources. 

Talk with your healthcare providers about different websites, books, and blogs. Reading plenty of reliable resources will help you in the long run! 

2. What caused my COPD?

Some people may already know the cause when they're diagnosed, but sometimes the reason is less apparent.

The primary cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. However, even people who don't smoke may develop COPD. 

Other potential causes may include secondhand smoke or inhaling irritants in the air at your work. There's also a rare genetic form called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Tracking down the reason for your diagnosis can help your doctor (and you!) decide how to best manage your disease.

3. What stage am I in?

There are four stages of COPD

Stages 1-2 are early stages and are considered mild (1) and moderate (2). Stages 3-4 are considered severe (3) and very severe (4).

COPD is a gradual disease that, for most people, progresses slowly over time. It's vital to know what stage the condition is in. It can help you understand what must be done, and it can help your doctor provide the proper treatment.  

4. How can I best manage my COPD?

COPD is a treatable condition. Symptoms can be controlled with the right interventions. The progression can be slowed, sometimes significantly. People are living better and longer with COPD than ever before. This includes the later stages. 

Working with your doctor on developing a strategy for managing your COPD is vital in helping you live better and longer. Here are some examples of valuable systems: 

  • Most doctors recommend avoiding lung irritants that make your COPD symptoms worse. If you smoke, your doctor will probably advise you to stop smoking.
  • Air or chemical pollution in your workplace may be the cause. In that case, your doctor may recommend changing jobs or requesting to work in a different environment. 
  • Your doctor may prescribe medications to help control your symptoms. 
  • They may also recommend learning some new exercises or exercising more frequently.
  • Your doctor may suggest pulmonary rehabilitation. They will consider your stage, symptoms, and specific circumstances to help find the right combination of therapies.

5. What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

Your doctor may suggest pulmonary rehabilitation to help with your COPD symptoms. Experts will recommend specific breathing exercises in this program, with a fitness plan to help your lung function. 

Typically, they will design a program based on your current lung function, age, and other health considerations. The experts will also demonstrate how to do these exercises as effectively as possible. 

This type of therapy may be recommended at any stage of COPD. Discuss with your doctor and see if pulmonary rehabilitation would benefit you.

6. What treatment will help me best manage it?

There are many treatments available to help people with COPD. Your doctor can help you decide what medications will work best for you.

7. Are there non-medicinal treatments that might help me?

Your treatment depends on your stage, symptoms, and other health factors. Here are some options:

Beyond medication, your doctor may recommend that you stay as active as possible. This may also include a recommendation that you do COPD-friendly exercises daily.

Some doctors may recommend you see a dietician to help you create a COPD-friendly diet.

Surgery may benefit some people with COPD. Two examples are "lung volume reduction" and "lung replacement" procedures.

You may also be eligible to participate in clinical trials for new COPD therapies.

You must ask your doctor about available treatments. They'll be able to provide you with more information and help you make informed decisions about your care. Please bear in mind that your doctor will advise or prescribe treatments that are right for you. The above examples are not to be treated as recommendations.

The takeaway

These are just a few of the questions to consider asking after you get your diagnosis. Keep working with your doctor and healthcare team. They can assist you in finding the right tools and resources to help you manage your COPD and live a longer and healthier life. 

NPS-IE-NP-00356 December 2021