5 Early Signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

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5 Early Signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that’s also a leading cause of disability and death in the United States and worldwide. While more than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with the COPD, research shows millions more may have the disease and not even know it.

That’s partly because COPD symptoms can be relatively mild in the initial stages of disease and partly because some of those symptoms may be mistaken for other problems, like allergies. Knowing what early symptoms to look for can help you seek medical treatment in the initial stages of the disease to protect your airways and help slow the progression of COPD.

Sergio B. Seoane, MD, is a leading provider of COPD diagnosis and management for patients in and around Lakeland, Florida. In this post, he reviews five common early COPD symptoms to help you decide when you need to seek medical treatment.

1. Shortness of breath

Also called dyspnea, shortness of breath is one of the earliest signs of COPD. Dyspnea happens because your airways are inflamed and swollen. Excess mucus production can also contribute to shortness of breath. If you have COPD, you may notice shortness of breath is worse when you’re performing a physical activity, even if that activity is not particularly strenuous.

2. Wheezing

Wheezing is an audible “whistling” or “squeaking” noise that happens when you breathe. In COPD, inflammation narrows your airways, and as air travels through them, it makes a high-pitched “wheezing” sound. Like some of the other symptoms on this list, wheezing may also happen with some allergies and with asthma. 

3. Chest tightness

Chest tightness can happen for a couple of different reasons in people with COPD. Because your airways don’t work as well as they should, air can get trapped in your lungs, contributing to a sensation of tightness or fullness. COPD can also cause airway spasms that can contribute to sensations of chest tightness. If you have chest tightness, you might find it’s hard to take a deep breath or deep breathing may be accompanied by discomfort.

4. Chronic cough

Chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts eight weeks or more, and it’s also a common symptom of COPD. When your airways are irritated, it can cause sensations that make you feel like you have to cough. Coughing may be more common when you first get up, and it may or may not produce thick mucus. 

5. Fatigue

Considering that COPD interferes with your ability to get enough oxygen, especially when you’re moving or active, it’s not surprising that many people with COPD also experience fatigue or tiredness on a regular basis. Many people with COPD find the effort of breathing to be tiring. Unfortunately, this type of fatigue does not typically resolve with a good night’s sleep.

Don’t ignore your symptoms

Many COPD symptoms happen in conjunction with other respiratory illnesses and diseases, including asthma and COVID-19. Left untreated, COPD and other respiratory problems can quickly become severe.

Many patients manage their symptoms with oral medications, inhalers, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes that support better lung health. But the first step in managing COPD is having a lung evaluation so we can determine if you have COPD or if another problem is responsible for your symptoms.

If you have any of these symptoms, don’t put off your evaluation. Call 863-644-2204 or book an appointment online with Dr. Seoane today.