Frequently Noted Symptoms of COPD
Those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease know that symptoms like coughing, wheezing and chest tightness are often noted by medical professionals as early warning signs of the disease, but there are other lesser-known symptoms that can help people self-diagnose. Earlier diagnosis can lead to more successful overall treatments and less pain and suffering in patients.
What is COPD Anyway?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is an inflammatory disease of the lungs that causes restricted airflow capabilities in the respiratory systems of sufferers. People with COPD have extreme difficulty breathing, and they are also highly susceptible to other more serious diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease or failure, or stroke. COPD is frequently attributed to long-term exposure to harmful gases or particle-filled air, but it has also been a powerful tool used by the anti-cigarette lobby to prove that secondhand smoke can be harmful. Cigarette smoke is said to damage the lungs and decrease their capability to transport air through the trachea, which can lead to a COPD diagnosis.
Common COPD Symptoms
Most symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease do not assert themselves until serious damage has already been done to the patient’s lungs. Because of this, it is difficult to prevent COPD in any meaningful fashion, and most COPD medical attention focuses on effective treatment rather than a cure.
Shortness of breath is a classic COPD symptom, and this difficulty breathing is also accompanied by coughing and wheezing. The coughing behavior is consistent and occurs throughout the day, and many COPD patients suffer from periods of exacerbated response, where the wheezing is much more frequent and harmful. These periods can last anywhere from a few hours to a week. Often, the cough will be worse in the morning, because the patient must expel the mucus and phlegm that have built up in his or her lungs overnight.
Related COPD Symptoms
Other symptoms include a slight blueness of the lips of the beds of the fingernails — this is caused by a related condition called cyanosis that is the result of poor circulation and inadequate oxidation of blood vessels. The chronic cough that is symptomatic of COPD often is accompanied by the production of white, green, yellow or clear mucus. People with COPD are also prone to repeated, mild respiratory infections and other breathing-related illnesses. In late stages of the disease, the results of inadequate oxygen intake and transport are more evident: patients may experience a general lack of energy, and can even lose weight in large amounts.
Depression and other mental illnesses may be triggered by the patient’s inability to breathe properly and undertake physical activity, but these emotional symptoms usually reveal themselves after physical symptoms are readily apparent.
What To Do After Observing These Symptoms
People who suspect that they may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should immediately seek the advice of a registered medical professional. People with a history of exposure to contaminated air should be especially vigilant in self-monitoring — COPD becomes harder to treat the longer it is ignored or dealt with, and modern interventions are less effective in advanced cases. Doctors will often perform simple X-rays, CT scans, pulmonary function tests and arterial analysis to determine if COPD is present, or if the patient simply has one of the many related lung diseases that exist.
Proper recognition of symptoms and signs related to COPD can help extend the lifespan of a sufferer by many years, and can increase the number of treatment options available. Being informed and vigilant is the best defense against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.