If you were or have been a longtime smoker–or live with one–then chances are your doctor has given you a good lecture about the dangers of COPD, otherwise known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, the illness is caused by prolonged exposure to irritating gases, and if it’s not diagnosed soon enough or treated properly, it could put the patient at risk for developing heart disease, lung cancer, and a host of other potentially deadly conditions.

Because the risks associated with the disease are so high, it’s important that treatment starts as soon as the first signs appear. Here are 5 of the most common ways COPD starts showing in the body…

  1. Feelings of tightness in the chest area

    According to experts, it’s not unusual for some COPD sufferers to receive a diagnosis after visiting the emergency room, thinking that they may be having a heart attack. This sensation occurs when an increased amount of mucus has consolidated in the lungs, or when the airways have been irritated to the point that blockages form.

  2. The appearance of blue nail beds

    The blue hue can also appear on the lips, hands, feet, and ankles too. It’s called cyanosis and it’s a sign that a patient is not getting enough oxygen in their blood supply. When this happens, normally healthy red blood cells turn to a grayish-blue color, which can sometimes show on the skin.

  3. Lack of energy or chronic fatigue

    As we mentioned, one of the hallmarks of a COPD sufferer is that they are not able to take in the oxygen that they need, which means that their bodies and brains cannot perform at 100%. Because of this struggle, sufferers can experience chronic fatigue and symptoms of depression.

  4. Shortness of breath

    COPD patients report experiencing shortnesses of breath–sometimes even when they’re not performing physical activities. It’s called dyspnea and it occurs when already damaged lungs are being overworked and cannot take in any more oxygen. This symptom gets so bad in some cases that patients may need a special inhaler or steroid treatment to perform basic exercises.

  5. An overproduction of mucus

    If you are a COPD sufferer–or you’re close with one–then you’ve likely noticed the persistent, painful, and often “wet-sounding” cough that accompanies the disease. This occurs when the passageways are filled with so much mucus that it’s a struggle to get it out. Sometimes, this symptom gets so bad that the mucus will become trapped and severe chest infections might occur.

Disclosure: while these are all warning signs of COPD, some might also signal a different illness, which means it’s important that you always seek treatment from your doctor before you start on any treatment plan. Let’s take care of ourselves, folks!

We’d love to hear your take on these COPD warning signs. Have you experienced any of the symptoms? If so, have you been diagnosed with the disease? What does your treatment plan entail?

Sources: The Mayo Clinic

COPD