Early Signs of COPD

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a severe lung condition which is progressive in nature. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve condition. Some of the early signs of COPD include coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness, and excess mucus.

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The lungs is made up of many tubes that branch into even smaller tubes. At the ends of these airways are tiny air sacs that inflate and deflate during respiration.

When a person inhales, oxygen moves down these tubes and passes through the sacs into the bloodstream. When they breathe out or exhale, carbon dioxide gas, which is a waste product, exit the bloodstream via the air sacs and airways.

In people with COPD, chronic inflammation of the lungs blocks the airways, resulting in difficulty in breathing. Also, COPD causes coughing and increased mucus production, which can lead to further blockages. This can cause the airways and air sacs to become damaged.

COPD is a long-term lung disease that that tends to deteriorate with time, it causes the obstruction of a person’s airways, making it difficult to respire. COPD can be deadly if left untreated.

READ ALSO: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

There is no cure for COPD, but appropriate treatment can relieve a person’s symptoms, reduce their risk of death, and improve their quality of life.

Early signs and symptoms of COPD

COPD may not cause any symptoms in early stages, or they may be so mild such that the individual does not notice them at first. The symptoms and severity of COPD can be individualistic.

The early signs and symptoms of COPD can include:

Chronic cough

One of the first symptoms of COPD is a persistent cough which is chronic in nature. A person may experience a congested cough that does not resolve on its own. Generally, a cough that lasts for longer than 2 months is described as chronic, according to doctors.

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Coughing is a protective mechanism that occurs in response to irritants. Coughing also helps get rid of phlegm or mucus from the lungs. However, if a person has an unending cough, it may signify a problem with their lungs.

Excess mucus production

Excess production of mucus can be an early symptom of COPD. Mucus is critical for keeping the airways moist, and it also captures germs and irritants that get into the lungs.

READ ALSO: Coughing Up Blood (Hemoptysis): Causes, Tests and Treatment

When a person inhales an irritant, their body produces more mucus, which can lead to coughing. Smoking is a very common cause of excess mucus production and coughing. Prolong exposure to irritants can cause severe damage the lungs and lead to COPD. Other lung irritants can include:

  • dust
  • chemical fumes, such as those from paints and strong cleaning products
  • pollution, including car exhaust fumes
  • perfumes, hairsprays, and other spray cosmetics

Shortness of breath

The obstacle of the air passages can cause difficulty in breathing, which can lead to shortness of breath. This is another common symptom of COPD.

Shortness of breath may only occur after exercise, but it can exacerbate over time. This can make some people to be less active, so as to manage their breathing difficulties.

Other symptoms of COPD

People with COPD may experience chest infections like pneumonia and flu because their lungs isn’t functioning properly.

Other symptoms of COPD can include:

  • unplanned weight loss
  • swelling in lower legs
  • wheezing, or noisy breathing
  • chest pain and tightness
  • coughing up blood

A person with COPD may also experience flare-ups. This is when symptoms suddenly become worse for a time. Triggers of COPD flare-ups can include chest infections and exposure to cigarette smoke and other lung irritants.

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