Man with blue fingers and lips

Symptoms of COPD, Some May Be Surprising

Last updated: June 2023

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is the third leading cause of death in the United States.1 COPD has some standard symptoms:

Surprising symptoms of COPD

Some of the surprising symptoms of COPD might be familiar to you, some won’t:

Warning symptoms of COPD exacerbation

Warning symptoms of your COPD are something that you should know of and be aware of. These are things that you will need to tell your doctor and other medical personnel that you may encounter.

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Excessive coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Heavier mucus production. Thick. Dark yellow, green, or brown in color.
  • Blue tinge of the lips and fingernails show lack of oxygen.
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • So tired
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Possible temperature
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Chills

Power in awareness

To those who have been diagnosed with COPD, you might be newly diagnosed and not familiar with some of the symptoms in any of these categories. That’s okay and they aren’t to scare you. They are to bring awareness of some of the things that we may experience, some serious. These are things that your family and/or caregiver might find helpful as well. So that they understand.

For those who have had COPD, you may be more familiar with these symptoms. You might know of other symptoms as well. Some might not be experienced until later stages. Always remember that we are unique in our disease, as we each have our own family history, list of medications, different diseases, allergies and more.

What might help with COPD symptoms?

  • Use your inhaler and or nebulizer as prescribed and needed.
  • Do pursed-lip breathing to bring in the oxygen and breathe out the carbon dioxide.
  • When coughing, put a pillow in front of your abdomen and ribs to protect the muscle and to avoid rib breakage.
  • Take notes of your COPD journey, especially on the days that you are sick so that you will have it handy when talking to the doctor. I sometimes forget things that I wanted the doctor to know because focus changes to other things.
  • Have a list of medications handy to take with you to the doctor or hospital. Be sure that your over the counter and herbal medications are included.
  • Elevate your feet if needed.
  • If your spouse, family or caretaker seems very concerned with your health and wants you to go to the doctor or hospital, listen to them and go. They can often see things that we can’t because they are more aware of what is going on.

It’s been said that COPD feels like an elephant sitting on a person’s chest. At times I think that COPD feels like the constriction of a boa constrictor, that can swallow a person up and wrap itself around the person which is suffocating.

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

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