According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 million Americans are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that causes breathing difficulties and can turn fatal. Another 12 million people may have COPD but don’t even know it.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD) often results from smoking, or a common cold, or flu-like illness. COPD occurs when the airways in your lungs become inflamed due to excess mucus build-up. As a result the airways become blocked and oxygen intake is depleted.
An awareness of the early warning signs of COPD can be the first step to prevent the condition from worsening. If left untreated, COPD can turn into a viral or bacterial lung infection, or result in the complete loss of lung function.
If you have one or several of the following COPD symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
1Shortness of breath—particularly following physical activity
Do you avoid some everyday activities for fear of becoming short of breath? Shortness of breath is an early COPD symptom. In fact, it’s the major COPD warning sign, says pulmonologist Barry Make, MD, professor of medicine in pulmonary sciences and critical care medicine at the University of Colorado Denver and director of respiratory care at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Breathlessness occurs when it takes more work for your lungs to move air in and out. You might find yourself running out of breath when you’re climbing stairs or walking to your car, but it’s also possible to be short of breath when you’re not doing anything at all. Even if it happens only occasionally, talk to your doctor.