Your body will usually tell you when something is wrong, but the truth is that we often ignore these signs until they have progressed to the point that they are too serious to ignore. By that point, you may have missed an important treatment window, particularly with COPD. Read on to learn what symptoms indicate COPD, or worsening COPD if you have already been diagnosed, and why those symptoms should not be ignored.
Why COPD Is Often Undiagnosed in the Early Stage
The early warning signs and symptoms of COPD are often ignored because people mistake them for regular smoking side effects or the natural signs of aging. While these things can overlap, the early signs of COPD are the kinds of symptoms that should never be ignored. It never hurts to talk to your doctor about symptoms, and it could help you get an early diagnosis (if it is COPD) and get the treatment you need to keep your COPD from progressing as quickly.
The 4 COPD Warning Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For
There are several common signs and symptoms of COPD that you should be aware of. If you are experiencing any of these, but especially if you experience more than one, you should contact your doctor right away. Even if it turns out that you do not have COPD, these are important signs that something in your body is not working as it should.
- Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is the number one sign of COPD, and it is one symptom that should never be ignored. If you feel short of breath after participating in regular, everyday activities like walking up a flight of stairs or going grocery shopping, you should be concerned. If you experience shortness of breath even when you are at rest, you need to contact your doctor immediately. Shortness of breath can be a sign of many lung or heart problems, but almost always indicates a serious issue. Take shortness of breath seriously and talk to your doctor about when you feel short of breath most often, as well as any other symptoms that accompany this sign of COPD. Tell your doctor right away if you have chest pain, a blue tint to your fingernails or lips or any of the other symptoms listed here.
- Chronic and Persistent Cough
People are often hesitant to talk to their doctors about a cough, because coughs are notorious for sticking around for weeks at a time. Smokers, in particular, are likely to experience an ongoing cough. However, a persistent and chronic cough, particularly one that gets worse rather than better, could be a sign that your lungs are unhealthy. If you have a constant cough without other symptoms, or without any other obvious reasons for that cough, you should talk to your doctor. A cough that will not go away, but does not present with cold or flu symptoms, is one common sign of COPD. If wheezing accompanies your cough as well, you should contact your doctor right away as this indicates a serious issue, whether it is COPD or not.
- Changes in Your Mucus
This one is unpleasant, but the fact is that changes in your mucus and phlegm are telltale signs that your body is fighting something. Your body will produce more mucus if you have been exposed to more irritants than normal, but it can also be a sign that your lungs are unhealthy. If you notice an increase in the amount of phlegm produced by your respiratory system, or if you notice that your mucus has changed in color, texture or consistency, you should talk to your doctor. If you notice blood in your mucus, whether it is bright red or dark and brown, see your doctor immediately. If you cough up blood, you should also see your doctor immediately.
- Unexplained Weight Loss
If you begin losing weight without trying or without changes in your diet or exercise routine, this could be a sign that your body is having to use more energy to breathe. This requires more calories, which causes you to lose weight without an obvious reason for that weight loss. COPD can also cause loss of appetite in some people, so it could also be that you are suddenly eating less without realizing it. No matter what the cause, losing weight unintentionally and without explanation usually means that something is wrong. It’s a good idea to let your doctor know if you have experienced unexplained weight loss so they can check your overall health and look for other worrisome signs and symptoms.
Why You Should Never Ignore These Symptoms
Each of the four symptoms listed above is a sign that your body is not working as it should. While it may seem like you can wait it out, each of these signs and symptoms are likely indicating a serious issue. Moreover, for many of the illnesses with these symptoms, early detection is key for a better outcome. This is particularly true for COPD since it is a progressive disease. Getting an early diagnosis and proper treatment for your symptoms can slow the progression of your COPD and help you maintain your quality of life for as long as possible. COPD cannot be cured, but the earlier it is caught and treated, the better.
Pay close attention to your health and make sure you report any of the changes listed above to your doctor right away. Whether you suspect COPD, already have COPD or think there may be something else wrong, it is important to communicate regularly and often with your doctor to ensure that they can help you as soon as possible. Though you may not be able to stop the development of certain diseases and illnesses, you can treat almost everything so that you can live the life you enjoy.
If you have COPD and your doctor recommends oxygen therapy, contact Inogen to find out how we can help you breathe better.