COPD Symptoms

COPD symptoms can differ for each person. Learn to recognize the most common symptoms and how they impact your life.

What Are COPD Symptoms?

COPD symptoms are felt, not measured, so you have to share what symptoms you are experiencing, and how often they occur, with your healthcare provider. Not everyone experiences the same COPD symptoms and knowing in which ways COPD is most impacting your life helps your healthcare provider come up with a treatment plan customized for you.

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Over 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, however millions more may be living with COPD but have not been diagnosed.

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Here are the most common COPD symptoms:

  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities (dyspnea)
  • Coughing up sputum (also called phlegm or mucus)
  • Wheezing or chest tightness
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Unable to take a deep breath
  • Feel like you cannot breathe

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. The sooner you begin treating your COPD and maintaining control, the less damage you will cause to your lungs.  

To get a more complete picture, your healthcare provider will also review how often you experience:

  • Reoccurring lung infections like pneumonia
  • Flare ups, exacerbations, or an event where symptoms are worse than your day-to-day symptoms
  • Instances where you felt so severely unwell that you had to seek urgent or emergency care 

Later stages of COPD may include worsening of current symptoms as well as weight and muscle mass loss, anorexia, or have an increased risk for depression or anxiety.

COPD exacerbations or flare ups are events where symptoms are worse than your day-to-day symptoms. Treatment for flare ups may include increased use of medications, but severe exacerbations can also lead to an emergency room visit or hospitalization.
Learn more about COPD exacerbations

Page last updated: November 7, 2023

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