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COP Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are Symptoms of COP?

COP often begins with what seems like a flu-like illness. Most patients experience shortness of breath with exertion, dry cough and weight loss. If the disease progresses (gets worse) you can have shortness of breath even at rest. In rare cases, patients may have chest pain, joint pain, night sweats or cough up blood. The most common symptoms of COP include:

  • Persistent (lasting 2-4 months), nonproductive cough (meaning you’re not coughing up mucus)
  • Fever
  • Chills and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

How COP Is Diagnosed

COP is usually diagnosed by ruling out other diseases. Your doctor will ask you many questions about your health to get a detailed patient history. This is important because the signs and symptoms of COP can be similar to common medication side effects and other illness. Your doctor will most likely order tests such as chest X-rays, laboratory tests, lung function tests and possibly a lung biopsy before a diagnosis is given.

How COP Is Treated

Patients with COP have an excellent prognosis. Milder cases of COP will go away on their own. However, in most cases, some form of treatment is necessary. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are the most common medication and can be prescribed for a few weeks to a few months. It is extremely important to take it as prescribed.

If improvement is not seen within a few weeks, cytotoxic medications such as cyclophosphamide may be used. Reoccurrences are common so once treatment has ended it is a good idea to talk to your doctor and monitor your progress, getting follow-up testing if necessary. It is important to note that COP is not responsive to antibiotics.

Finding Support

You can call the Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support. The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: October 23, 2020

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