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Manifestations of COPD

Manifestation refers to how a disease presents itself. COPD causes changes to occur inside your lungs. These changes manifest themselves by symptoms you feel. There’s no way I can list all the manifestations of our disease in one short post. This is because we all experience it a bit differently. There are some manifestations that are common. Although, there are others that are less common (some are unique to the individual). So, my list may fall short. Still, I thought it would be neat to start a list here.

Common manifestations of COPD

Shortness of breath. Perhaps the tel tale symptoms of  our disease. Believe it or not, some people with COPD do not experience it. But, most will at some point. Some will experience it only during flare-ups. Others experience some degree of it even on good COPD days. Some feel mild shortness of breath. During flare-ups, some experience severe shortness of breath.

Chest tightness. Again, some don’t experience it at all. Others experience some degree of it on good COPD days. Others only experience it during flare-ups. Sometimes it can be a mild pressure. Other times it feels really bad. Your doctor can help you determine what’s normal for you, and when you should seek help.

Throat clearing. This can also be prevalent in asthmatics. Like asthmatics, people with COPD may have lots of sputum producing cells in their airways. When this sputum enters your upper airway it causes you to clear your throat. It may also cause a cough.

Coughing. Again, some people do not experience this at all. Others experience coughing on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s a dry cough. Other times it’s productive of colorful sputum, such as yellow or green. Some experience some coughing every day. Others experience it only during flare-ups.

Wheezing. Some people experience none at all. Some experience silent wheezing that can only be heard with a stethoscope. Others experience audible wheezing. There are also other llung sounds, such as crackles.

Some manifestations that may also occur

Fatigue. This one might could easily be listed under the common ones. Many people with COPD feel tired during the course of the day. Some living with it may feel very tired.

Anxiety. COPD itself may cause a person to worry. It can cause feelings of apprehension or fear. This may also be a manifestation of feeling shortness of breath. Again, some people don’t experience it at all. Some experience a little anxiety. Some feel lots of it. Oh! And anxiety may also be a side effect of medicines too.

Nervousness. COPD can literally get on your nerves. It can make you feel jittery. It can cause you to have a high heart rate, to sweat, or to tremble. This may be due to the disease itself. Or, it may be due to feeling the other manifestations, such as shortness of breath. It may also be a side effect of the medicines used to treat the disease.

Depression. Some people experience feelings of sadness and despair. Many people don’t want to share these feelings. Researchers and doctors have created some screening criteria to recognizing and diagnosing it, because it’s very treatable.

Bloating. It may also present with burping or gas. It’s very common to have a problem with your stomach when you have a lung disease. This includes both COPD and asthma. It’s not always possible to know what the cause is. It may be due to a side effect of COPD medicines, such as systemic steroids. Many people with COPD require a medicine to reduce stomach acid, such as Prilosec.

Rib cramping. This may be a symptom of the disease itself. It may also be a side effect of the medicines used to treat the disease. The cause ma remain inexplicable. What we do know is that many members of this community have said they experience this.

Bodily aches and pains. This may include sore sore back. It may include a sore chest. It may include sore shoulders. One possible cause of this may be use of accessory muscles to breathe. These are muscles only sometimes used to breathe. When you’re working hard to inhale, these muscles are used. They can cause you to feel sort, sort of like you might expect to feel after a workout in the gym. The cause may other something else entirely, such as arthritis. The cause may also remain unknown.

Barrel chest. This is common in people with emphysema. It’s caused by the breakdown of lung tissues and air trapping. It’s a chest that always looks like you are inhaling. Physicians of long ago described COPD chests as resembling that of a barrel, hence the name. I will go into more detail about this in a future post. If I forget feel free to remind me.

Infections. Many people with COPD are prone to lung infections. It tends to be the nature of the disease. Some get infections sometimes. Some get them frequently. Respiratory viruses can cause common cold symptoms. These symptoms can seem to be worse in people with COPD compared to people who don’t have it. Pneumonia is another common infection.

What to make of these COPD manifestations?

As I said in the opening paragraph, there’s no way I can list all the manifestations in such a short post. But, my goal is to write a part II to this post. To do that I need your help. In the comments below please write down any manifestations or symptoms I failed to list here. There’s some manifestations that are rare and may be unique to you. So, if you experience any of these, please share in the comments below. Thanks.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • LynnInUtah
    6 months ago

    Rib Cramps? In my case this is Intercostal Neuralgia. It moves around and can last for weeks.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi LynnInUtah, thanks for your post about rib cramping. You are definitely not alone when it comes to this type of cramping as many others in the community have mentioned this experience for themselves, too.
    I thought you might want to read this article on this very topic: https://copd.net/living/relief-rib-cramping/. I do hope you find it to be helpful. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • RondaSue
    7 months ago

    One horrible manifestation I suffer is fecal incontinence if I become even moderately short of breath. I’ve had several very public very awful accidents. I don’t want to leave my house. I’ve become isolated.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    We hear you RondaSue and understand just what you’re going through. You are not alone as this can be a fairly common ‘side effect’ or ‘manifestation’ of the condition. I thought this article might provide you with some additional insight for your concern: https://copd.net/living/an-embarrassing-situation/. I do hope you find it to be helpful.
    Although it is understandable for you to be embarrassed over these awful accidents, I believe with time (and the proper precautions), you should be able to get ‘out there’ again. It may take some time for you to develop your confidence again, but I think with some effort, you should be able to accomplish that once again.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • LynnInUtah
    7 months ago

    I suffer everything that is mentioned here. After seeing the many commercials on TV, I thought that I was the ONLY one that suffered.
    Thank you for this information.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi LynnInUtah – I’m so glad you found this site! You certainly are not alone, as you can plainly see. We’re so happy to have you.
    Best – Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi LynnInUtah and thanks for your post. That is the beauty of COPD.net and our COPD Facebook page. Our community members are able to see that they are NOT alone in their COPD journey. We’re glad to have you as part of our online community, Lynn.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi John – what a great idea!!

    Did you want to include cyanosis and/or clubbing of the fingers?
    Do you think ‘pink puffers’ and ‘blue bloaters’ should be included?

    These just came to me after looking over your article.
    Thanks for posting it.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    7 months ago

    Apparently I missed edema too, among other things. Being that it’s a heterogeneous disease, I’m sure there are many more to be added. Maybe a party 2 will be in order some day. Thanks. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    That’s a great idea, John. A sequel when you’re ready and have enough more manifestations to add!
    We’ll all look forward to your next one!!
    Leon (site moderator)

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