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How is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Diagnosed?

Diagnosing COPD involves a comprehensive evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and various tests such as lung function tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, arterial blood gas analysis, and laboratory tests.

  • 12 Feb 2024
  • 2 min read


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory condition characterised by airflow limitation, impacting millions globally. Timely and accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management and improved quality of life. This blog explores the diagnostic process for COPD, encompassing various tests and assessments designed to evaluate lung function, detect abnormalities, and rule out other conditions. Understanding the diagnostic processes is vital for someone concerned with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosis involves thoroughly examining signs, symptoms, and medical history, coupled with a series of tests to assess lung function and identify potential underlying causes. The diagnostic journey includes:

  • Lung (Pulmonary) Function Tests

The cornerstone of COPD diagnosis lies in lung function tests, offering insights into respiratory capabilities and oxygen exchange. These tests measure air inhalation and exhalation. Assessing the volume and speed of airflow provides valuable information about the degree of airway obstruction. This common test involves breathing into a device connected to a machine to measure lung capacity and airflow. It offers lung volume measurement. Evaluating the total volume of air in the lungs can provide additional information about lung function, examining the efficiency of oxygen transfer from the lungs to the bloodstream. It monitors oxygen saturation levels in the blood through a small device attached to the fingertip.

  • Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is a valuable tool in the diagnostic arsenal, serving multiple purposes. It detects emphysema, a prevalent cause of COPD, and is visualised through X-ray images, contributing to a comprehensive diagnosis. X-rays help exclude alternative conditions, ensuring a focused approach to COPD management.

  • CT Scan

Computed Tomography (CT) scans are pivotal in refining the diagnostic process. CT scans offer detailed images, aiding in identifying and localising emphysema. For severe cases, CT scans evaluate whether surgical interventions may be beneficial. Given the increased risk of lung cancer in individuals with COPD, CT scans serve as a diagnostic measure.

  • Arterial Blood Gas Analysis

This blood test provides essential information about the efficiency of the lungs in oxygenating the blood and removing carbon dioxide. It measures Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Levels. Analysing blood gases offers insights into respiratory function and efficiency.

  • Laboratory Tests

Genetic testing and other laboratory assessments contribute to a comprehensive diagnosis. Genetic testing for alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency helps exclude alternate causes of COPD symptoms. In cases with a family history of COPD and an early onset of symptoms, laboratory tests aid in determining potential genetic predispositions.

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A comprehensive approach to COPD diagnosis involves a combination of clinical evaluation and a variety of tests, ensuring an accurate lung function assessment and identifying contributing factors. Timely diagnosis is critical for initiating appropriate treatments and interventions. However, someone having COPD also needs to keep a check on their pockets, as these processes often demand a lot of money. That is when health insurance with coverage of all the requirements that the patient has comes into the picture. Health insurance also plays a pivotal role in facilitating access to the extensive diagnostic procedures required for COPD, underscoring its significance in supporting individuals throughout the diagnostic journey and optimising COPD management. Early diagnosis, coupled with adequate insurance coverage, contributes to better outcomes for those navigating the complexities of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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