Warning Signs of COPD
Last updated: June 2023
COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which is a progressive disease. Progressive means that it can’t be reversed. The hope is, with early diagnosis, the person with COPD can slow the progression of his/her disease. You see, COPD causes an obstruction in the airflow to the lungs.
Types and warning signs of COPD
There are multiple types of COPD:
There are also many warning signs associated with COPD. Does this apply to what you are experiencing? You may only experience one or two, or you may experience ten of these:
- Short of breath (SOB) and don’t know why.
- Unable to talk.
- Having frequent respiratory infections.
- Sleeping is hard to do.
- Yet I feel so tired, so very tired.
- Headaches have been happening more often.
- A feeling of anxiety has increased.
- Increased heart rate.
- Exercise is getting harder to do, getting short of breath more frequently.
- It seems like there is muscle loss.
- With this changing appetite, food just doesn’t sound good.
- This chronic cough just doesn’t go away.
- There is more mucus, (phlegm) than before. It’s turning green with infection.
- The wheezing or noisy breathing that seems to be coming from the tight chest.
- This swelling of feet, ankles or leg happens more often. This is called edema.
- Blue tinge in fingernails, toenails and sometimes even lips.
What kind of doctor should be called?
If you are seeing a GP (general physician), an IM (internal medicine) or a PA (physician’s assistant) as your regular doctor, you may need to see that doctor first. Then he/she might refer you to a pulmonologist, who is a lung doctor. Some pulmonologists might not need a referral. You will also be tested to see if you have COPD or another condition.
Should everyone be tested for COPD?
That depends on the doctor’s recommendation. If you have a history of inhaling toxins, being in being in an environment that is harmful or even have the physical symptoms of COPD, then you should be tested. Did you smoke? This is the leading cause of COPD.
Were any of the following part of your environment? Second-hand smoke, pollution, chemicals. Does COPD run in your family? You should be tested for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. This is the genetic form of COPD and it can affect the liver. If you have a family member(s) who have COPD, definitely let your doctor know. Remember to take a list of your medications, allergies, surgeries, and family history to your appointment.
Do you have an advance directive?
If you have an advance directive, you should take that along with you. If you don’t have one, that’s okay. Do ask any questions that you may have and discuss with the nurse or whoever they recommend. Each of your doctors and hospital needs their own advanced directive so you should provide one to each.
Where do you stand with your COPD?