COPD Diagnosis

Your doctor will use a combination of your medical history, a physical exam, and lung function tests to determine if you have COPD.

Medical history

This includes your symptoms, any risk factors like smoking or exposure to lung irritants, and other information to help give your doctor clues about your condition.

Physical exam

Your doctor will physically examine you with a stethoscope to listen for abnormal breathing sounds like wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound).

Lung function tests for COPD

Your doctor may recommend one or more tests to help determine if you have COPD. Spirometry is a lung function test that measures how much air you can breathe in and out. It also measures how fast you can blow out. It may detect COPD even before symptoms develop. You’ll start by taking a deep breath, and then blowing as hard as you can into a machine called a spirometer, which will record measurements like:

  • FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second), a measure of how much air you can breathe out in 1 second
  • FVC (Forced Vital Capacity), the maximum amount of air you can breathe out in one breath
  • FEV1/FVC Ratio: FEV1 expressed as a percentage of FVC; people with COPD usually have an FEV1 that is less than 70% of the FVC, or an FEV1/FVC less than 0.70

Other tests

Your doctor may order other tests, like a chest x-ray or CT scan, which can provide important information about your COPD or help rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms. He or she may also order an arterial blood gas test, which helps determine the oxygen level in your blood.

These tests can help your doctor determine the severity of your COPD and guide further treatment.


Having an open conversation about COPD with your doctor is key to managing your disease.

By telling your doctor more, you could increase your chances of getting treatment that is right for you.

Learn how to talk to your doctor

COPD Grades

There are 4 grades of COPD, and each is progressively more severe.

This classification of the severity of reduced airflow in COPD by GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) is based on FEV1 after using a bronchodilator, in people with FEV1/FVC less than 0.70:

Mild COPD (GOLD 1)

FEV1 ≥80% predicted

Moderate COPD (GOLD 2)

50% ≤ FEV1 <80% predicted

Severe COPD (GOLD 3)

30% ≤ FEV1 <50% predicted

Very Severe COPD (GOLD 4)

FEV1 <30% predicted

Your age, your gender, and even your height are considered when your doctor looks at the results of your

spirometry test.

Important Safety Information

  • SYMBICORT combines an ICS, budesonide and a LABA medicine, formoterol. LABA medicines, such as formoterol, when used alone can increase the risk of hospitalizations and death from asthma problems. When an ICS and LABA are used together, this risk is not significantly increased
  • Do not use SYMBICORT for sudden severe symptoms of COPD or asthma
  • Before you use SYMBICORT, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you have heart conditions or high blood pressure, and all the medicines you may be taking. Some patients taking SYMBICORT may experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, or change in heart rhythm
  • Do not use SYMBICORT more often than prescribed. SYMBICORT should be taken as 2 puffs 2 times each day
  • While taking SYMBICORT, do not use another medicine containing a LABA for any reason. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if any of your other medicines are LABA medicines
  • Call your healthcare provider or get medical care right away if:
    • Your breathing problems worsen
    • You need to use your rescue inhaler more often than usual or your rescue inhaler doesn’t work as well at relieving symptoms
  • SYMBICORT may cause serious side effects, including:
    • Using too much of a LABA medicine may cause chest pain, fast and irregular heartbeat, tremor, increased blood pressure, headache or nervousness
    • Fungal infection in your mouth or throat (thrush). Rinse your mouth with water without swallowing after using SYMBICORT to help reduce your chance of getting thrush
    • Pneumonia and other lower respiratory tract infections. People with COPD may have a higher chance of pneumonia and other lung infections. ICS may increase the chance of getting pneumonia. Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following symptoms: increase in mucus production or change in color, fever, increased cough, chills, or increased breathing problems
    • Immune system effects and a higher chance for infections. Tell your healthcare provider about any signs of infection such as: fever, body aches, feeling tired, vomiting, pain, chills, or nausea
    • Adrenal insufficiency. This can happen when you stop taking oral corticosteroid medicines and start inhaled corticosteroid medicine
    • Increased wheezing right after taking SYMBICORT. Always have a rescue inhaler with you to treat sudden wheezing
    • Serious allergic reactions including rash, hives, swelling of the face, mouth, and tongue, and breathing problems. Call your healthcare provider or get emergency medical care if you get any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction
    • Lower bone mineral density can happen in people who have a high chance for low bone mineral density (osteoporosis)
    • Slowed growth in children. A child’s growth should be checked regularly while using SYMBICORT
    • Eye problems including glaucoma and cataracts. You should have regular eye exams while using SYMBICORT
    • Swelling of blood vessels. This can happen in people with asthma. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have: a feeling of pins and needles or numbness of arms or legs, rash, flu like symptoms, or pain and swelling of the sinuses
    • Decreases in blood potassium levels (hypokalemia)
    • Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)
  • The most common side effects of SYMBICORT include:
    • COPD: throat irritation, thrush in the mouth and throat, bronchitis, sinusitis, and upper respiratory tract infection
    • Asthma: throat irritation, headache, upper respiratory tract infection, throat pain, sinusitis, flu, back pain, nasal congestion, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and thrush in the mouth and throat

Approved Uses

COPD: SYMBICORT 160/4.5 mcg is used long-term to improve symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, for better breathing and fewer flare-ups.

Asthma: SYMBICORT is for the treatment of asthma in patients 6 years and older whose asthma is not well-controlled with an asthma-control medicine such as an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) or whose asthma warrants treatment with both an ICS and a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA).

SYMBICORT is not used to relieve sudden breathing problems and will not replace a rescue inhaler.

Please see full Prescribing Information and Patient Information, and discuss with your doctor.

You may report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088. You may also report side effects to AstraZeneca at 1-800-236-9933.