8 Symptoms of COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, describes the signs and symptoms associated with two very common lung diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Those who are diagnosed with COPD often find that their breathing is labored and gets worse over time. Because it is a chronic disease, difficulties with breathing generally do not get better over time.

COPD is incredibly common, with tens of millions of individuals diagnosed or suffering from signs and symptoms. Smoking is the main cause of COPD, whether that is smoke inhaled directly from cigarettes or cigars, or inhaled from second-hand smoke. COPD can also develop in individuals who inhale pollutants through their workplace. There are also some genetic factors that contribute to the onset of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, so it is possible to develop COPD even if you have never smoked a day in your life.

1. Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is perhaps the hallmark sign of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It can be caused by either emphysema or chronic bronchitis. The lungs have hundreds of tiny sacs within them called alveoli. These little air sacs help aid in breathing by allowing oxygen into the bloodstream, and removing carbon dioxide from it. When these air sacs get damaged, due to things like smoking, they don’t work as well resulting in shortness of breath. Emphysema is characterized by damaged alveoli. Smoking not only damages alveoli making breathing harder, but it also irritates the tubes that carry oxygen to your lungs.

Chronic bronchitis also can cause difficulty breathing due to irritation to the bronchial tubes that transport air to your lungs. Both of these diseases occur due to damage to parts of the lung and can cause shortness of breath. This symptom can be managed with medications that help open up your airways such as inhalers. Exercising routinely can also help improve breathing, although it may seem counterintuitive. It is important for those experiencing this symptom to exercise caution when engaging in physical activity that causes difficulty breathing. Doctors often prescribe oxygen therapy in individuals who have severe difficulties breathing.