When most people thing about lung problems, they automatically think of lung cancer. While this is certainly a very serious problem, there are other respiratory conditions which can be just as dangerous and debilitating. One common lung ailment is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is a damaging combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The early warning signs of COPD are often missed because they are subtle and do not always interfere with daily life. However, paying attention to these signs is important, as it will allow for the problem to be addressed sooner rather than later. Below are 7 warning signs that might signal that you are developing COPD.
Shortness of Breath
Many people think that shortness of breath is just a sign of aging. However, while COPD will start with shortness of breath when your climbing stairs or walking around, as it progresses it can get to the point where you are breathless just getting up to go to the bathroom. It is better to talk to your doctor early about any shortness of breath, as this might be a sign that COPD is developing.
Everyone gets a cough sometimes, but if you notice that you are getting a cough more frequently than usual or a cough that is persistent and does not seem to quite go away, this is also a sign that you should be talking to your doctor about your respiratory health.
Waking up in the morning with a dull headache is also a COPD warning symptom; this means that you are not breathing adequately at night and the carbon dioxide is building up, giving you the headache.
Swelling in Ankles/Feet
COPD often goes along with heart failure and when your heart is not beating properly, fluids will build up in the body that would normally be expelled and often pool in the feet and ankles. Talk to your doctor right away if you are experiencing this.
If you are having to prop yourself up on pillows or find yourself getting short of breath or wake up gasping at night, this is another symptom of COPD that should be discussed with your doctor right away.
As COPD progresses, there are physical changes that take place in the chest that change its posture and shape and enlarge the chest wall to make room for lungs that are enlarged due to chronic inflammation.
Bluish Nails or Lips
Over time, if you do not get enough oxygen through your body, a bluish tinge can occur around your nail beds or your lips called cyanosis. It is a sign of low oxygen levels and also needs to be immediately reported to your doctor.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your physician and discuss your concerns. A physical assessment, bloodwork and other tests can help determine if you are suffering from COPD and help you and your doctor come up with a plan of care that will work for you and slow the progress of this potentially devastating condition.
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