Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Man with blue fingers and lips

Symptoms of COPD, Some May Be Surprising

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

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.

  1. CDC. (2019). Basics About COPD. Retrieved from:,have%20been%20diagnosed%20with%20COPD. October 1, 2019.


  • chrissyinc4523
    4 months ago

    Thank you Janet, good article. Sometimes I do get confused, espicially with the swallen ankles and feet. Been having that lately. Cardo doc says it could be due to a med I take or to much sitting or being on my feet to much.

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    4 months ago

    Meds definitely can be a cause too. I hope that you get answers and relief, Chrissy
    Janet (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    4 months ago

    Hello chrissyinc4523
    I too have a lot of edema, so am on lasix for swelling. I notice it gets worse if I’m on my feet. On those bad days I do elevate my feet, but make sure I walk or exercise about every hour, that helps my overall body.

    Did your doctor give recommendations to you.?

    Thank you for replying. We look forward to talking with you again.
    Janet (author/site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi faith4us, and thanks for your post and joining in this conversation, based on Janet’s article. When it comes to portable oxygen concentrators, there are many to choose from. If you do your own GOOGLE search, using the words ‘portable oxygen concentrators’, you will see many of the products that are currently commercially available. You may want to discuss making the right choice for you with your prescribing physician. Please do check back and let us know how you’re doing. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • faith4us
    4 months ago

    I have had COPD for over a year now. I thought I would be alright by now. Sadly I’m not. My Feet have edema as well and have to take Lasix too. Worst is I can’t walk from one room to another with out the oxygen levels going down from shortness of breath. So glad I can communicate with other that have the same. One thing for sure, it has made me house bound a lot. Anybody know of a good small portable oxygen. Mine is from the doctor and its heavy and to big for me to walk around with at someone house.

  • KevinDavitt moderator
    5 months ago

    Great piece, Janet.

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you Kevin

  • Poll