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COPD Symptoms & Indications

COPD patient experiencing an exacerbation on the couchChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not really a single illness but actually a group of lung diseases. COPD is primarily made up of three related conditions which obstruct airflow in the lungs. The primary conditions of COPD are emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma. The obstruction that is caused in the lungs by these conditions is permanent, and it tends to progress over time.

(If you are living with this respiratory disease, we are enrolling participants for this COPD clinical trial in Birmingham, AL.)

Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of COPD

It is important to be able to recognize the deteriorating signs and symptoms of COPD, especially after this respiratory disease has been diagnosed. This becomes a very important part of managing the illness. If an individual is able to effectively realize when their symptoms are beginning to get worse, they can quickly seek additional treatment and intervention options. Receiving treatment for COPD as early as possible is crucial at the present time, since the damage caused to the lungs is irreversible. Earlier prescribed drugs can help to preserve lung functioning in the long term.

How COPD Effects the Lungs

The walls of the bronchioles in the lungs will collapse during exhalation because they are relatively weak. It is the elasticity of the lungs which works to keep the bronchioles open in a healthy person. There are elastic fibers which surround the airways and line the walls of the alveoli, and these are responsible for providing the elasticity of the lungs. With COPD, the emphysema will begin to gradually destroy the lung tissue, which causes the lungs to lose their elasticity over time. Without that elasticity, the bronchioles can collapse and obstruct the flow of air. Impacted by the emphysema, the healthy lung tissue begins to look like an old sponge with large sporadic holes and no elasticity.

Early Warning Signs of COPD

Primarily, the symptoms of COPD won’t become noticeable until after significant damage has occurred to the lungs. Once these symptoms do manifest, they will most likely get worse over time. The early signs and symptoms can be quite unique depending on the individual. The symptoms can also vary depending on which lung disease is more prevalent. This is why it is crucial to be aware of the potential warnings of COPD. People with COPD will often have more than one of these symptoms at a time.

Early COPD symptoms:
• A shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
• Smoker’s cough or chronic cough which produces a bunch of sputum
• Tightness in the chest

Many people who have COPD will experience these episodes called exacerbations where their symptoms will abruptly get much worse. These exacerbations can become quite severe and may warrant immediate medical attention. Sometimes patients with COPD will need to change their treatment and medication due to one of these episodes.

Some of the early warning signs of one of these episodes include:
• An increase in severity of cough and sputum produced
• Change in color of sputum or the presence of blood in sputum
• Increased shortness of breath
• Swelling in the ankles
• Fingernails or lips turning blue or gray (this is a sign of a low oxygen level in the blood)
• Confusion, forgetfulness, sleepiness, or slurred speech (signs of low mental alertness)
• Heartbeat is unusually fast
• Trouble sleeping, morning headaches, dizziness, or restlessness

Looking Forward

These can also be signs that the disease itself is getting worse. Effective management of the symptoms of COPD is currently the best path available for COPD patients. Fortunately, recent developments in COPD clinical studies show a lot of promise for the future. As medical researchers are able to understand more about the pathogenesis of this group of lung diseases, they will soon be able to develop new treatments that effectively address the sources of the symptoms.