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Four Early Symptoms of COPD

April21image002More than 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Another 12-24 million may be living with the condition without realizing it. While there is currently no cure for COPD, a diagnosis will allow a patient to work with their doctor on how to best preserve their lung capacity and reduce the occurrence of dangerous and uncomfortable flare-ups.

A study by the Mayo Clinic found that symptoms of COPD typically don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred. That’s why it’s important to speak with a doctor if you experience any of the following, which can be early signs of a COPD diagnosis:

  1. Ongoing cough — A chronic or constant cough is usually one of the first signs of COPD. Although coughing means the lungs are responding as they should to irritants, a chronic cough may mean the lungs aren’t functioning normally.
  2. Increased mucus — After coughing, the second early sign of COPD is an increased production of phlegm or mucus, which the lungs produce to trap or stave off irritants. For people with COPD, irritants such as tobacco smoke can lead to the production of up to three times the normal amount of mucus.
  3. Shortness of breath — When someone experiences breathlessness or shortness of breath, it means their lungs are requiring more effort than usual to move the air in and out.
  4. Fatigue — COPD causes people to get tired more easily than they have in the past and reduces their stamina or energy.

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and test your lung function to determine if you have COPD. These tests will also help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Read the whole Healthline story to learn more about the symptoms of COPD.