From time to time, I like to feature questions from the COPD Forum in blog posts, especially if the question has the potential for high appeal to a vast COPD audience. A few days ago, one of the newest forum members, Valman09, asked this question:
I am 32 year old male and I've had 2 chest X-rays done in recent months. The first showed increased central markings with peribronchial soft tissue thickening consistent with asthma, bronchitis or allergies. I was given albuterol and corticosteroids (flovent) for my dyspnea. The second showed mild central bronchovasular indistinctness often seen in bronchitis. I am a former smoker of both cigarettes and marijuana. To date, I have not smoked marijuana for 2 years and cigarettes for 3 years.
My question is this: given my smoking history, is it likely that I have developed COPD based on the findings of my X-ray? I'd appreciate any help you can give me.
Thank you for your time.
A diagnosis of COPD is not based solely upon a chest X-ray, but it does help support it.
Abnormal chest X-ray results are generally not visible in an X-ray until the damage to the lungs from COPD is severe. Then, it is typical to see flattening of the diaphragm, an increased size of the chest (as measured from front to back,) an elongated, narrow heart, and abnormal air collections within the lungs known as bullae. So how does a doctor definitively diagnose COPD?
To confirm a diagnosis of COPD, your doctor is likely to start with a thorough history and physical to determine your familial, environmental and smoking history, if applicable . Next, a battery of tests will follow, if during the history and physical, your doctor suspects a possibility of COPD. One of the most standard of all tests is a chest X-ray, which your doctor will do in the beginning and then periodically throughout your treatment. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs), in particular, spirometry, will also be used for diagnosis, as well as to determine the amount of damage that has occurred in your lungs. Doctors may also order blood tests, arterial blood gases, pulse oximetry readings, sputum cultures or a cat scan of the chest, depending upon your COPD symptoms. It is always best to see your doctor for a definitive, COPD diagnosis.
Given our reader's smoking history of both tobacco and marijuana, he does have a higher chance of developing COPD, than if he had just smoked cigarettes alone. The great thing is, however, that he has since quit smoking both substances which will help slow the progression of the disease, should he be diagnosed with it.
Do any of your have similar questions you'd like me to feature in the blog? If so, visit the COPD Forum to ask away! I do not always use every question, but when it is highly relevant to the COPD community (and as time permits), I will do my best to blog about it.