When Should You Suspect COPD? Know the Key Symptoms

It’s been said that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) affects millions of Americans, from young adults all the way up to seniors in their golden years. Understanding the key symptoms often associated with COPD and being proactive about monitoring them can help provide an earlier diagnosis and lead to better long-term outcomes for you or those you care about who may be living with this disease. 

1. Coughing

Coughing is one of the most common symptoms associated with COPD and can be a sign that your airways are blocked. If you have a persistent cough, especially if it’s accompanied by chest tightness or wheezing, then it’s important to speak to your doctor about being evaluated for COPD. Additionally, coughing could be COPD if it is accompanied by sputum (mucus) production and/or an increase in sputum volume. Also, if coughing is worse in the morning, or persists for weeks at a time, then it could be an indication of COPD. 

2. Shortness of breath

COPD causes breathlessness and trouble catching your breath. It may be worse when you’re active or when laughing, coughing, or sneezing. If you find yourself short of breath more often than usual, this could be a sign of COPD. Additionally, if you’re having difficulty exercising or doing activities that you used to be able to easily do, this could also indicate COPD. While everyone gets out of breath from time to time, if you find yourself consistently short of breath, this is a major warning sign and should be discussed with your doctor. 

3. Wheezing or whistling sounds when you exhale

Wheezing or whistling sounds when you exhale can be a key symptom of COPD. Wheezing is a high-pitched sound that comes from respiration, and it typically occurs as air is moving through narrowed airways. The sound may get louder when you’re breathing in, but it’s most common during exhalation. When the sound is more pronounced than other background noise, this could be an indication of COPD. It’s important to note that some people naturally have a slightly hoarse voice and/or a subtle wheeze in their breath because of their normal lung structure or because they suffer from asthma or allergies — so not every wheeze indicates COPD.

COPD is a serious and progressive condition, but an early diagnosis can help provide more effective treatment options. If you have any of the symptoms outlined above or notice shortness of breath that persists for weeks at a time, it may be an indication of COPD and should be discussed with your doctor right away. With knowledge comes power — understanding the key symptoms associated with COPD can help you take control of your health and live life to the fullest.

4. Chest tightness or pain

Chest discomfort can be a sign of COPD, and it often comes on with physical activity or other forms of stress. If you feel chest pain that isn’t relieved by rest or medications like aspirin, make sure to have it checked out by your doctor – it could be an indication of COPD.  It’s important to note that chest pain can also be a sign of other conditions, such as heart disease, and should always be discussed with your doctor.