Millions of individuals are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) yet some are not even aware that they have the condition. It is important to note that some of the symptoms of COPD are similar to other conditions. Once the symptoms occur, many tend to ignore them believing that they are linked to a minor issue. Remember that the symptoms of COPD do not manifest until severe lung damage occurred.
How to determine if I have COPD
If an individual smokes or frequently exposed to irritants such as second-hand smoke, workplace fumes or air pollution, he/she is at risk for developing COPD. The doctor will perform tests such as an X-ray or measure the breathing volume to determine if the individual has COPD. These tests can also rule out other conditions. Even though a doctor can provide a diagnosis of COPD, there are warning signs to watch out for at different stages of the disease.
Watch out for the signs
Many who have COPD develop most or all the distinctive symptoms. It is important to note that the severity of the symptoms depends on the extent of damage on the lungs. Not all who have COPD develop symptoms and not all who have these symptoms have COPD. A doctor must be consulted if the individual experiences the following symptoms.
The initial sign of COPD is a persistent cough that is worse in the morning. Take note that cough is a natural reaction of the airway for protecting the inhaled irritants such as cigarette smoke or to remove phlegm from the air passages.
Even though lung responds normally to irritation, chronic cough indicates that the lungs are not functioning normally. This type of cough is often confused with “smoker’s cough” since it is productive. You can learn to ease this symptom if you will register for first aid training today.
Increased production of mucus
When an individual has COPD, the coughing goes along with production of large amounts of excess phlegm or mucus. The lungs produce additional mucus to keep inhaled particles out. Even though it is normal for the airways to produce excessive mucus to maintain moistness of the passages, constant exposure to irritants can lead to increased mucus.
Shortness of breath
Production of mucus and coughing are the stage 1 symptoms of COPD. Once shortness of breath occurs, this is considered as one of the stage 2 symptoms of the disease. The individual is breathless once the lungs sense that it takes more effort to move air in and out. This can be caused by diminished level of blood oxygen. Primarily, breathlessness can occur only with increased physical activity, but in the late stages, it can occur with increased frequency even without exertion.
Another stage 2 symptom of COPD is wheezing which is a whistling sound when breathing and accompanied by a feeling of tightness in the chest. The wheezing occurs when air passes through constricted and obstructed airways.
Fatigue is also a common symptom that often accompanies other moderate symptoms. Even though fatigue linked with COPD can cause discomfort, it does not cause damage to the lungs and other organs. A doctor must be consulted to determine if fatigue is due to COPD.
The symptoms usually worsen over time. Frequent flare-ups of symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath indicate the severity of the condition and degree of lung damage. It is vital to consult a doctor to deal with the symptoms and start treatment as soon as possible. Severe and worsening flare-ups that are not treated can be deadly.