Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term inflammatory lung disease. It refers to a group of diseases that cause obstructed airflow and breathing problems, including emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).
The most common symptom of COPD is a chronic cough. Yet, many other symptoms may develop as the condition progresses. What’s more, a patient may experience COPD symptoms episodically, in variable intensity.
To make sure whether or not you need to talk to your doctor about COPD, you should first learn about its symptoms. So, let’s begin and have a closer look at the disease.
Common COPD Symptoms
- Chronic Cough
Typically, cough isn’t only the most common symptom but also the one that first develops. If you have a persistent cough that lasts for three months, or even longer, for at least two years in a row, you may be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.
This cough is generally present daily, although there are no other signs or symptoms of any illness. It occurs as a result of the body trying to remove mucus, secretions, and irritants (such as dust or pollen) from the airways and the lungs.
In COPD patients, the mucus is yellow and the cough is usually worse in the morning or when being physically active and especially in those who smoke cigarettes.
The second COPD symptom is wheezing, a whistling or musical sound, which occurs during the process of exhaling when the air is forced through either narrow or obstructed air passages in the lungs. In COPD patients, this sound is often a result of excess mucus causing obstructions in the airways, as well as muscular tightening which makes the airways even narrower.
However, wheezing is also a common symptom of asthma and pneumonia. Indeed, some people diagnosed with asthma or COPD, 15 to 45 percent to be exact, may also have ACOS (asthma-COPD overlap syndrome) which is a condition that includes symptoms of both diseases.
Dyspnea, i.e. shortness of breath is yet another COPD symptom. It occurs as a result of swollen, inflamed, and damaged airways in the lungs that start to narrow. As a consequence of the obstruction, COPD patients find it more difficult to catch breath and face breathing issues.
In general, dyspnea is most noticeable when COPD patients are physically active. Unfortunately, any type of increased physical activity, including some basic daily tasks, can result in shortness of breath in those diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some examples of such tasks include taking a shower, doing household chores, dressing, walking, climbing up and down stairs, etc.
Eventually, such breathing difficulties will lead to experiencing fatigue as your blood and muscles don’t get the oxygen needed.
- Frequent Lung Infections
Last but not least, COPD patients have quite weak immune systems and a reduced ability to eliminate pollutants, dust, and other irritants, which makes them more prone to developing respiratory infections like flu, cold, and pneumonia.
Fortunately, they can ward off such lung infections by practicing good hygiene, especially handwashing, as well as getting vaccinated against common infections yearly to avoid the risk of getting infected or decrease the symptoms.
The bottom line, that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may cause irreversible damage to the lungs. That’s the reason why you need to identify the symptoms on time and consult your doctor to get the right treatment.