I was recently diagnosed with COPD. What should I ask my doctor at my next appointment, and what can I expect?

You are an important part of the health care team managing your COPD. When you partner with your care team and follow your treatment plan, you can help your lungs work better.

It may be helpful to have an idea about what your doctor might ask you and to have some questions ready for your doctor.

Questions your doctor might ask

Before your next appointment, write down or think about the answers to some common questions your doctor might ask you. These may include:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing, and when did they start? If you have a cough, how much do you cough, and how much mucus comes up when you cough? Do you get short of breath easily, or have you noticed wheezing when you breathe?
  • What makes your symptoms worse? And what makes them better?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping? Do symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath interfere with your sleep? Have you been told that you snore loudly or stop breathing during sleep?
  • Have you had any treatment for COPD? If you've been treated for COPD, what treatments have you tried, and did they help?
  • Have you ever taken beta blockers? These may have been prescribed for high blood pressure or your heart.
  • Are you being treated for any other medical conditions? If so, what conditions, and what medications and supplements do you take regularly?
  • Do you smoke or have you ever smoked cigarettes? If you do smoke, would you like help quitting?

Questions to ask your doctor

You may get more out of your doctor's appointments if you bring a list of questions with you. Some questions to ask include:

  • How do I use my medications correctly? You may be able to limit more lung damage by closely following your treatment plan. To get the most out of your medications, be sure you're using them correctly. Ask your doctor to watch you use your medication, including inhalers and nebulizers, which can be tricky to use. And clarify at what times and in what situations you should use them.
  • What should I do if my symptoms get worse? What steps should I take? When should I contact you? And when should I get emergency medical care?
  • Should I go to a pulmonary rehabilitation program? These programs usually combine education, exercise training, nutrition advice and counseling. Pulmonary rehabilitation may be helpful if exercising or doing daily tasks is hard for you. A rehabilitation program may help you improve your overall health, increase your exercise level and gain a higher level of independence.
  • What else can I do to improve my health? What vaccines do I need, and how can I help avoid getting the flu and other respiratory illnesses? Are there breathing exercises that I should do? What can irritate my lungs, and how can I protect myself? Can you help me quit smoking?

To get the most out of your appointments, it may also help to bring a friend or family member with you. Two sets of ears can be better than one when you're learning about a complicated medical condition, such as COPD. It may also help if one or both of you take notes.


Eric J. Olson, M.D.

March 01, 2019 See more Expert Answers