COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a term applied to a group of different lung diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, these diseases block the flow of air when you breathe out, making it more and more difficult for the sufferer to breathe. Most COPD is caused by long-term smoking and kills more than 3 million people every year, based on data reported by the World Health Organization. Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of COPD to ensure early diagnosis.
Onset and severity. The symptoms of COPD do not normally start to appear until lung damage is already quite considerable. These symptoms will also worsen over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, sufferers also tend to experience episodes, during which the symptoms suddenly become much more severe.
Smoker’s cough. A smoker’s cough is a deep, persistent cough that worsens over time. Fibers in the nose and trachea called cilia function by pushing irritants out of the body. Damage to these cilia prevents them from functioning properly. Excess phlegm cannot be moved up to your throat (where it can be swallowed), which means that you need to cough regularly to clear the phlegm.
Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath may be a symptom of COPD, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. This is likely to be exacerbated by a burst of physical activity, such as climbing the stairs or running for a bus.
Wheezing and tightness of chest. Even without any abnormal physical activity, COPD sufferers may experience tightness in their chests, which makes it very uncomfortable to breathe. Similarly, they may wheeze when breathing, identified by a whistling or squeaky sound.
Severe symptoms. Very severe symptoms indicate that you may need to seek treatment in a hospital. You should seek emergency care if you cannot breathe or talk, if your lips or fingernails turn blue or if your heartbeat becomes very fast.