With complications such as respiratory infections, heart problems, lung cancer, high blood pressure, and depression, it is important to educate yourself on the early signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Because millions of Americans experience breathing problems due to these conditions, Richmond University Medical Center hopes to spread COPD awareness by helping you identify six early signs and symptoms of COPD.
1. Chronic Cough
A persistent, or chronic, cough is often one of the first symptoms of COPD. A person may experience a chesty cough that does not go away on its own. Doctors generally consider a cough that lasts for longer than two months to be chronic.
2. Excess Mucus Production
Producing too much mucus can also be an early symptom of COPD. Mucus is essential for keeping the airways moist, and it also captures germs and irritants that get into the lungs. When a person inhales an irritant, their body produces more mucus, which can lead to coughing.
3. Shortness of Breath
The obstruction of the air passages can make it more difficult for a person to breathe, which can lead to shortness of breath. At first, shortness of breath may only occur after exercise, but it can worsen over time. Some people cope with their breathing difficulties by becoming less active, which can lead to them becoming less physically fit.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of COPD, especially as the disease progresses. A person with COPD needs to exert extra effort to breathe. This exertion can result in lower energy levels and feeling tired all the time. When a person is feeling tired, they may limit their activities, which over time can lead to decreased stamina and the body losing its conditioning. The more unconditioned a person becomes, the more fatigued they may feel even doing simple tasks.
When you exhale and the air is forced through narrow or obstructed air passages in the lungs, you may hear a whistling or musical sound, called wheezing. In people with COPD, it is most often caused by excess mucus obstructing the airways. This is in conjunction with muscular tightening that further narrows the airways.
6. Frequent Lung Infections
Because their lungs are not functioning normally, people with COPD are more likely to experience chest infections, including:
- Common cold: Colds are among the most common causes of COPD flare-ups.
- Flu: When you have COPD, getting the flu puts you at higher risk for pneumonia. You are also more likely to end up in the hospital.
- Pneumonia: People with COPD are at higher risk of getting pneumonia, especially when they are older. If you are over 65 and have COPD, you are almost eight times more likely to get pneumonia than people the same age without COPD.
COPD Awareness in Staten Island, New York
With such severe complications and no cure, it is extremely important to understand the early signs of COPD to better prevent it. Richmond University Medical Center proudly serves patients living in Staten Island. To learn more about the early signs of COPD and how we can help you treat it, please contact us today.