Feature Article

Early COPD. How to identify it and is it worth treating?

Feature Article

Early COPD. How to identify it and is it worth treating?

Sabine C Zimmermann, Claude S Farah, Gregory G King

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Abstract

Case finding of airflow limitation and COPD is an important step to be undertaken by GPs in individuals at risk to help address the increasing burden of this condition in the community.

Key Points

  • Detecting airflow limitation when the patient has no symptoms and confirming the diagnosis of COPD by spirometry identifies individuals at risk of future symptoms, increased decline in FEV1 and complications of the condition.
  • Better stratification of future risk by actively diagnosing COPD (case finding) may alter management in those with additional risk factors for COPD progression and cardiovascular risk.
  • Performing spirometry in current smokers may increase smoking cessation.
  • An asymptomatic patient with a new diagnosis of airflow limitation should be monitored for decline in FEV1, onset of COPD symptoms and occurrence of exacerbations.
  • Confirmation or exclusion of COPD allows appropriate drug prescription and helps avoid diagnostic confusion.
  • Management of COPD continues to evolve as understanding of the disease increases, particularly appreciation of its heterogeneity.

    Picture credit: © Molly Borman Biomedical Illustrations, Inc.