Your doctor will ask for details about your smoking. He or she will ask how long you've smoked, and how many cigarettes per day.
Other questions may include:
Your doctor also will ask about your respiratory symptoms. He or she will want to know if and when you develop shortness of breath. The doctor also may wish to ask about:
Your doctor then will examine you to look for typical signs of emphysema. This may include:
The results of this examination may be totally normal in many people in the earliest stages of emphysema.
In most people, emphysema will be diagnosed by X-ray or lung-function tests.
A regular chest X-ray may show typical changes of emphysema. These include:
However, these changes may not appear until significant damage has occurred. Computed tomography (CT) scans are better for detecting the earliest changes of emphysema. CT scans may help to diagnose the disease in younger people or those who have never smoked.
Pulmonary function testing is useful both to diagnose emphysema and to determine the stage of the disease. This test is also known as spirometry. In this test you will blow forcefully through a tube. The tube is connected to a machine that measures your lung capacity.
Your doctor also may order specialized lung tests. These may require you to sit inside a glass box, or slowly breathe in a mixture of different gases.
Other tests your doctor may order include:
If suspected, your doctor can order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis of AAT deficiency. If this test is positive, your doctor may recommend screening for your entire family.
Page 3 of 9 Next Page: Emphysema Expected Duration
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.