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Diagnostic criteria in asthma & COPD


Respiratory symptoms of cough, wheeze and shortness of breath are common to many respiratory conditions and can pose a challenge to health care professionals when making a diagnosis. In practice, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the two most commonly confused respiratory conditions. There is no single diagnostic test that can conclusively detect either condition. Detailed history taking, which looks at the presence of predisposing or risk factors for different diseases, and the type, severity and pattern of symptoms is essential in establishing the most likely diagnosis. Appropriate use of objective tests such as spirometry or peak flow to measure lung function may then be used to help confirm the potential diagnosis.


On completion of this resource you should have an understanding of:

  • The importance of history taking in the differential diagnosis of asthma and COPD
  • The key features in a history that can help distinguish between asthma and COPD
  • ‘Red flag’ symptoms that can indicate other serious pathologies
  • The role of lung function testing in the diagnosis of respiratory disease
  • The role of clinical investigations in the diagnosis of asthma and COPD

This resource, which is based on a typical case scenario, is offered at an intermediate level and includes five assessment questions to support your continuing professional development. Complete the resource to obtain a certificate to include in your revalidation portfolio. You should record the time spent on this module in your CPD log.