The American Lung Associatio (ALA) estimates that more than 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and another 12 million likely have the condition but are unaware of it. Could you be one of them? It’s not always easy to tell. Symptoms of COPD often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues. For chronic bronchitis, the main symptom is a daily cough and sputum production at least three months a year for two consecutive years.
Some symptoms of COPD include :
- Ongoing Cough – One of the first signs of COPD is a persistent cough that’s often worse in the morning. Coughing is a natural reaction of the airways to provide protection from inhaled irritants such as cigarette smoke, or to remove phlegm (mucus) from the breathing passages. Although the lungs are responding normally to irritation, a chronic cough is an indication that the lungs aren’t functioning normally.
- Increased Mucus – In COPD, coughing usually goes hand-in-hand with a second early-stage symptom: the production of a large amount of excess mucus or phlegm. Your lungs will produce additional mucus to trap or keep inhaled particles out. While it’s normal for your airways to produce several ounces of mucus per day to keep breathing passages moist, constant attacks by smoke and other irritants can lead to the production of up to three times the normal amount of mucus.
- Shortness of Breath – Coughing and mucus production are considered mild “stage 1” symptoms of COPD. However, shortness of breath is a more moderate or “stage 2” symptom. You’ll experience a feeling of breathlessness when your lungs sense that it takes more effort than usual to move air in and out. This can be caused by decreased blood oxygen levels. Initially, breathlessness may occur only with increased physical activity, but in later stages of the disease, it may appear with increasing frequency, even without exertion.
- Fatigue – Fatigue, or tiredness, is another common symptom in people with COPD. A loss of energy or stamina may often accompany other moderate COPD symptoms such as breathlessness and wheezing because of the exertion involved. This symptom alone isn’t dangerous. Although the fatigue associated with COPD may be very uncomfortable, it doesn’t actually cause damage to your lungs or other organs. Tiredness may be a symptom of many other conditions, so talk to your doctor to determine if your fatigue is a result of COPD.