You'll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a pulmonologist — a doctor who specializes in lung disorders. Testing generally includes a variety of blood tests, a CT scan of the chest and pulmonary function testing.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you might want to write a list that answers the following questions:
- What are your symptoms and when did they start?
- Are you receiving treatment for any other medical conditions?
- What medications and supplements have you taken in the past five years, including over-the-counter medications or illicit drugs?
- What are all the occupations you've ever had, even if only for a few months?
- Do any members of your family have a chronic lung disease of any kind?
- Have you ever received chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer?
- Do you have any other medical conditions, especially arthritis?
If your primary care physician had a chest X-ray done as part of your initial evaluation, bring that with you when you see a pulmonologist. It will help the pulmonologist make a diagnosis if he or she can compare an old chest X-ray with the results of a current X-ray.
The actual X-ray image is more important to your doctor than is the report alone. CT scans of your chest also may have been done, and those should also be requested.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:
- Are your symptoms persistent, or do they seem to disappear and then reappear?
- Have you recently had new contact with the following: air conditioners, humidifiers, pools, hot tubs, or water-damaged walls or carpet?
- Are you exposed to mold or dust in your home or other homes where you spend a lot of time?
- Have any close relatives or friends been diagnosed with a related condition?
- Do you come into contact with birds through your work or hobbies? Does a neighbor raise pigeons?
- Does your work history include regular exposure to toxins and pollutants, such as asbestos, silica dust or grain dust?
- Do you have any family history of lung disease?
- Do you or did you smoke? If so, how much? If not, have you spent a lot of time around others who smoke?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for any other medical conditions?
- Do you have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), such as heartburn?