Here Are Some Common Signs and Symptoms of COPD
In India, over <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30409-1/fulltext">5.5 crore </a>people live their lives struggling to breathe as they battle progressive lung diseases.
In India, over 5.5 crore people live their lives struggling to breathe as they battle progressive lung diseases.(Photo: iStockphoto/altered by FIT)
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Here Are Some Common Signs and Symptoms of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the lungs and obstructs the airflow from them. It usually develops over a period of time when one is exposed to particulate matter or hazardous gases, according to Mayo Clinic. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, COPD could be the 3rd largest cause of death worldwide.

While all these figures are disturbing, our intention is not to scare but educate you. COPD is non-contagious, preventable and treatable.

Get to know the symptoms and get yourself screened if you suspect you may have any of these:

• Chronic Cough

(Photo: iStockphoto)

One of the most common symptoms of COPD is chronic cough. While the act of coughing is a preventive measure taken by the body to ensure that no irritants enter the airways, recurring cough might not be good news.

Chronic cough could be a sign that the lungs aren’t able to function normally, according to Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Consultant - Respiratory and Critical Care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

One of the most common symptoms is chronic cough with expectoration (the act of ejecting mucus or phelgm while coughing) at least 2-3 times. Patients with such complains must see a doctor soon.
Dr Rajesh Chawla

• Wheezing and Increased Amount of Phlegm

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Another symptom for COPD is wheezing - that whistling like sound a person makes while breathing in and out. Patients with COPD have narrowed or blocked airways and are more prone to infections in their lungs, which might cause wheezing.

But, it’s important to note here that while COPD is often the cause of wheezing, the reverse may not be always true always. Every instance of wheezing does not makes one a patient of COPD, says Dr Chawla.

Breathing exercises help in controlling wheezing symptoms. Medicines like inhaled bronchodilators can help COPD patients manage their breathing better.

Mucus or phlegm formation is another important symptom observed in COPD patients. It is one of the ways how our lungs ensure that the irritants are not inhaled in. Irritants like smoke or other pollutants can cause the lungs to produce large amounts of phlegm, up to 2-3 times the normal amount, as per WebMD.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Patients can try deep coughing and huff coughing techniques as demonstrated by their doctors to help clear their mucus.

• Breathlessness

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Breathlessness and exhaustion are more common in COPD patients since it shows that the lungs are taking extra effort to pump the air in and out.

Initially, breathlessness is observed while climbing the stairs or walking uphill, but soon activities like walking on plain surfaces and sitting might also leave the patient feeling exhausted. This is when the patient must get himself or herself checked.
Dr Rajesh Chawla

• Fatigue

Getting tired easily? You might want to get yourself checked for COPD.

WebMD defines fatigue as “lingering tiredness that is constant and limiting”.

Recurring feeling of being tired or exhausted might be a result of COPD. You must see a doctor if this symptom persists for a long period of time.

• How is COPD Diagnosed?

(Photo: iStockphoto)

As per the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Staging System, there are four grades of COPD:

  • Grade A - Mild COPD
  • Grade B - Moderate COPD
  • Grade C - Severe COPD
  • Grade D - End-Stage COPD

The progress of the disease is different from patient to patient depending on their medical histories, exposure to fumes and other irritants. In case of smokers, the doctors will ask how long have you been smoking and how many packets each day, says Dr Deepak Pabreja, MPT (Cardiopulmonary), Clinical Manager - Ventilation, SNRC, Philips India Ltd.

And since there is no single test to diagnose COPD, patients are diagnosed based on the COPD assessment test (CAT) score, the medical research council dyspnea scale (mMRC) score, fatigue test score and results of pulmonary function tests (PFT).
Dr Deepak Pabreja

• How To Get Yourself Screened?

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dr Chawla suggests anyone battling with the above symptoms must get a spirometry test done to help diagnose how healthy one’s lungs are.

As part of the pulmonary function tests (PFTs), one can also undergo the bronchodilator test. It uses a spirometer and a bronchodilator which assist in the diagnosis of asthma and COPD by measuring the reversibility with the help of an inhaled bronchodilator.
Dr Rajesh Chawla

Asthma is caused by inflammation in one’s airways resulting in swelling and narrowing so it can be managed and reversed by medication. But on the other hand, the damage of lung tissues causes COPD which cannot be reversed but can be well managed by further treatment.

It is important to remember that COPD is non-contagious, treatable and most of the symptoms can be managed well. With a little more awareness, patients can improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of secondary infections.

FIT is running a month-long campaign to increase awareness around chronic lung diseases. If you have any questions on COPD, write in to us at FIT@thequint.com. We’ll get our experts to answer your queries for you. For more information on COPD, call 1800 208 2882.

(This article has been published in association with Philips Respironics as part of our #BreatheFIT campaign)

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