Signs and Symptoms of COPD
Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice the symptoms. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease. While it can’t be cured, COPD can be managed and treated, so it's important to find out if you have COPD. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can take steps that could help you manage your COPD and breathe better. That’s why it is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking a spirometry test.
Symptoms of COPD can be different for each person, but the common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath*
- Frequent coughing (with and without sputum or phlegm)**
- Increased breathlessness
- Feeling tired, especially when exercising or doing daily activities
- Tightness in the chest
*Shortness of breath is NOT necessarily a symptom of COPD. It can be seen in other medical conditions including certain heart problems. Being overweight or deconditioned can contribute to shortness of breath.
**Not everyone who has COPD has a chronic cough. Not everyone with a cough has COPD or will develop it in the future. There are many possible causes of a cough, including post nasal drainage from sinusitis, asthma, lung infections and medication side effects.
In a COPD Foundation survey, 81 percent of COPD patients described having six or more additional chronic diseases which are called co-morbid conditions (or co-morbidities). Some of the conditions they mentioned included weight loss, arthritic pain, cancer, cardiac problems, female and male osteoporosis, depression, hypertension, sleep apnea, and diabetes. Talk to your doctor about your other symptoms, even if you think they are not related to your COPD.
Learn more about the common causes and risk factors of developing COPD including smoking, environmental factors and genetic factors.
What Causes COPD?