Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious disorder that encompasses several different lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is known for causing shortness of breath and low airflow based on tests of the lungs. In recent decades, the condition has risen to the sixth leading cause of death worldwide, and is expected to increase with the rising number of smokers in the developing world. This is why it is essential that you know and understand the symptoms of COPD, especially if you happen to be a long-term smoker.

Constant coughing is the most prevalent sign of COPD. Sometimes this persistent cough is referred to as a "smoker's cough" and will be at its worst in the mornings. Shortness of breath is especially important when it is a new symptom. If you are not athletic, you probably will be short of breath if you run up stairs regardless; however, if you experience shortness of breath during activities that normally shouldn't be difficult, this is a huge red flag that should be addressed quickly. Other common COPD symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, mucus in the throat and chest, coughing up phlegm and frequently occurring respiratory infections. As COPD gets worse, advanced symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, blueness of the lips and possibly COPD exacerbation.

COPD is a complex diagnosis, which claims the lives of over 120,000 people in the United States annually. Unfortunately, there's no way to know the life expectancy of a person who is diagnosed. When caught and treated early, most people can remain in the early stages of COPD for years without symptoms getting significantly worse. However, there usually comes a point when symptoms suddenly get worse. Once a patient slips into the fourth and last stage of COPD, the four-year survival rate is less than 20 percent. Getting the right treatment is essential in preventing the disease from reaching its later stages. If you are concerned about having the signs and symptoms of COPD, or if you have questions about a diagnosis or treatment options, schedule an appointment to talk with your doctor.