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COPD: Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also known as COPD is an umbrella term used to describe lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. It is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

Symptoms of COPD

The following are some of the basic signs and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are:

Ongoing Cough: Coughing is a natural reaction that helps get rid of inhaled irritants such as smoke of cigarettes or to remove mucus from air passage to make breath easily. A chronic cough is worse in the morning and is an indication that lungs are not properly working. It’s similar to a smoker’s cough because it brings up mucus and its confusing. It may produce white, yellow or greenish mucus.

Increased Mucus: The second sign of this disease is that lungs start to produce excessive mucus to trap particles outside. The attacks by smoke and other irritant materials the amount of mucus production increases three times than the normal.

Breathing Shortage: Your lungs will effort more to exhale and inhale the air than regular days. This is caused by decreased quantity of oxygen in blood cells. It mostly occurs when the body is engaged in any physical activity such as exercising. Breathing gets uneven.

Wheezing: It is a sound like whistle which is caused while you breathe and it also tightness your chest. When the breathing passage goes narrow, irritation starts to appear. This is also a sign through which development of this disease can also be indicated in the lungs.

Fatigue: It is an another symptom of this disease. It makes you feel uncomfortable. The tiredness associated with COPD is not damaging the lungs or other organs. However, talk to doctor if you get fatigued as a result of COPD.

Some of the advanced signs and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are:

Change in nail color and skin: There’s a bluish tint around your lips and your nails turn blue or purple and color of your body seems like yellow or gray.

Difficulty while talking: When you have to talk, the words do not come out and you have to use your hand gestures telling others that there’s something wrong with you.

Swollen body parts: The parts of the body, such asankles orlegs startto swell or pain starts in the belly and these problems are linked to heart or lungs.

Reduction in weight: If you had COPD for a long time, then you would notice a reduction in your weight. The extra energy required to breath, maybe burning calories in the body which is causing weight loss. It may also occur because of tiredness and shortness of breathing would make eating difficult.

People suffering from COPD are mostly experiencing episodes called exacerbations, in which symptoms of a sufferer become worse day by day than usual and it last for some days.

Stages of COPD

The stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are from Stage I to Stage IV. Every stage has some different symptoms and decreases the performance of the pulmonary parts as stage increases.

Stage I: You get a shortage of breathing process while walking on a slight incline. Initially, there’s no cough or mucus and people don’t realize any lung problem at this stage.

Stage II: You start walking slower on a surface level comparing to people of your age. And while walking, you may become breathless and you have to stop to catch the breath. Still, you won’t have cough or mucus. But some people seek for first aid after noticing the symptoms.

Stage III: Every time, you walk on a level surface, you stop to regain your breath. Again, you don’t have cough or mucus or both, but tiredness starts to take place. Exercising becomes difficult at this stage and you start to suffer a lot.

Stage IV: At this stage, you totally become breathless and you cannot leave home. You may also become breathless during daily activities such as dressing and undressing of clothes. It’s the most critical stage of COPD as there’s trouble while breathing and it becomes even life threatening due to shortness of breath.

COPD is a serious condition which affects life in many ways and its signs and symptoms are not easily noticeable until the condition gets worst.

Treatment of COPD

COPD is not curable, but if you change your lifestyle hen the treatment would make it easier for you to feel better and stay active. You must also consult pulmonologist, a doctor who is specialized in treatment of lung diseases.

Quit Smoking: The first step that will lead to treatment of COPD is quit smoking. If you find difficulty while quitting smoking, ask your family members to join you a support group. These groups offer classes, helping people quit smoking. Also try to avoid secondhand smoke and places with dust where you inhale.


Bronchodilators: It helps muscles relax around your airways, makes breathing easier. It comes in an inhaler which help relieve coughing because it goes straight to the lungs. Doctor prescribes this according to your condition, for 4-6 hours short-acting bronchodilators are prescribed and for 12 hours or long-acting bronchodilators are used every day.

If your COPD is mild, then doctor prescribe you short-acting bronchodilators and if it’s severe or moderate then you are prescribed long-acting bronchodilators.

Inhaled steroids: These reduce inflammation in the air passage and have some side effects such as oral infections. These medications are useful for people with less exacerbations of COPD. Fluticasone and budesonide are examples of inhaled steroids.

Antibiotics: Antibiotics help treat minor exacerbations, but they are not generally recommended for prevention. However, azithromycin an antibiotic that prevents exacerbations but it’s not clear whether it’s due to its inflammatory properties or antibiotic effect.

Lung Therapy: When condition goes severe than doctors use additional therapies. One of them is lung therapy because there is not enough oxygen in the blood so you need extra oxygen. So, machines are used to deliver oxygen to your lungs. Some people also use oxygen during physical activities or while sleeping. It can improve quality of life and increase life span.

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