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 About SYMBICORT

SYMBICORT contains formoterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA). LABA medicines such as formoterol increase the risk of death from asthma problems. It is not known whether budesonide, the other medicine in SYMBICORT, reduces the risk of death from asthma problems seen with formoterol.

  • Call your health care provider if breathing problems worsen over time while using SYMBICORT. You may need different treatment
  • Get emergency medical care if:
    • Breathing problems worsen quickly, and
    • You use your rescue inhaler medicine, but it does not relieve your breathing problems

SYMBICORT should be used only if your health care provider decides that your asthma is not well controlled with a long-term asthma control medicine, such as an inhaled corticosteroid, or that your asthma is severe enough to begin treatment with SYMBICORT.

If you are taking SYMBICORT, see your health care provider if your asthma does not improve or gets worse. It is important that your health care provider assess your asthma control on a regular basis. Your doctor will decide if it is possible for you to stop taking SYMBICORT and start taking a different long-term asthma control medicine without loss of asthma control.

Children and adolescents who take LABA medicines may have an increased risk of being hospitalized for asthma problems.

SYMBICORT does not replace rescue inhalers for sudden symptoms.

Be sure to tell your health care provider about all your medical conditions, including heart conditions or high blood pressure, and all 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. While taking SYMBICORT, never use another medicine containing a LABA for any reason. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if any of your other medicines are LABA medicines.

SYMBICORT may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Using too much of a LABA medicine may cause chest pain, increase in blood pressure, fast and irregular heartbeat, headache, tremor, or nervousness
  • Fungal infection in your mouth or throat (thrush). Rinse your mouth with water 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. Call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms: change in amount or color of mucus, fever, chills, increased cough, or increased breathing problems
  • Immune system effects and a higher chance for infections. Tell your health care provider if you think you are exposed to infections such as chicken pox or measles, or if you have any signs of infection such as fever, pain, body aches, chills, feeling tired, nausea, or vomiting
  • 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
  • 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. Signs include a feeling of pins and needles or numbness of arms or legs, flu like symptoms, rash, pain and swelling of the sinuses
  • Decreases in blood potassium levels (hypokalemia)
  • Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)

The most common side effects in patients with asthma include nose and throat irritation, headache, upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat, sinusitis, flu, back pain, nasal congestion, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and thrush in the mouth and throat.

The most common side effects in patients with COPD include throat irritation, inflammation of the nasal passages and throat, thrush in the mouth and throat, bronchitis, sinusitis, and upper respiratory tract infection.

Approved Uses for SYMBICORT

SYMBICORT is a medicine for the treatment of asthma for people whose doctor has determined that their asthma is not well controlled with a long-term asthma control medicine such as an inhaled corticosteroid or whose asthma is severe enough to begin treatment with SYMBICORT. SYMBICORT 80/4.5 is for the treatment of asthma for children 6 to less than 12 years. SYMBICORT 80/4.5 and 160/4.5 are for the treatment of asthma for people 12 years and older. SYMBICORT is not a treatment for sudden asthma symptoms.

SYMBICORT 160/4.5 is for adults with COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

You should only take 2 inhalations of SYMBICORT twice a day.

Please see full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide and discuss with your doctor.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.