According to Healthline, as many as 24 million American adults are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Millions more may have COPD and not even know it. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, develops slowly, and the symptoms worsen over time. Below are five warning signs you might be ignoring.
Shortness of Breath
Difficulty breathing can be a one of the first signs of COPD. You might feel shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Taking a deep breath might not come as easy to you as it once did.
Constant Coughing with No Cause
Chronic bronchitis, a condition that contributes to COPD, is an inflammation of the lining of bronchial tubes. These tubes carry air to and from the lungs. When their lining is inflamed, it causes “smoker’s cough” and mucus. In other words, if you've been coughing constantly or wheezing for a few weeks or longer without a known cause, talk to your doctor.
An Increase in Mucus
Similarly, inflammation in the bronchial tubes produces mucus. This type of mucus comes from your lungs, not your sinuses, and could be a warning sign. While your lungs need mucus to keep your airways moist, noticeable changes in your mucus might be a COPD symptom.
Swollen ankles, feet, or legs can signal a more severe case of COPD. Swelling happens due to complications of COPD called pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. COPD patients often do not have enough oxygen in the bloodstream which cause the blood vessels to become narrow or even destroyed. Untreated pulmonary hypertension can lead to cor pulmonale, a harmful and potentially life-threatening condition where the structure and function of the heart’s right ventricle is altered.
Do you wake up with your head pounding? When your lungs don’t work properly, you do not get enough oxygen while you sleep. Therefore, carbon dioxide builds up in your blood causing you to wake up feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and with a headache.
If you are experiencing any of these, even mildly, ask your doctor for a spirometry test to see if they are symptoms of COPD.