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Symptoms of COPD

The main cause of COPD is smoking tobacco. Years of smoking can cause damage to the airways of the lungs. Many current and former smokers will probably not notice or will simply not accept symptoms for several years.

Symptoms of COPD are:

  • Cough
  • Extreme mucus production
  • Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe)
  • Chest tightness

These symptoms are due to permanent airway obstruction caused airway inflammation. The reduced airflow hurts the lung’s ability to deliver oxygen to the body and to remove carbon dioxide waste.

COPD sufferers become short of breath because of the increased effort needed to breathe. When you have COPD it becomes ‘work’ to move the air in and out of your lungs.

The feeling of shortness of breath causes changes in the way you live your life.  You may need to adapt your activities to help decrease the shortness of breath.

Physical activities may take longer to complete. The person with COPD may take frequent rest periods in order to be able to complete an activity, such as vacuuming, mowing a yard, or cooking a meal.


© 2005 American Association for Respiratory Care

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