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Initial symptoms of COPD and how it is diagnosed

In COPD patients, the symptoms may not appear until substantial damages to the lungs are done. Moreover, the symptoms would directly correspond to the amount of lung damage. Also, it is not necessary that everyone with COPD will have symptoms evidently. If you are a regular smoker, or you get exposed to air pollution, chemicals, and other harmful fumes, then you are at risk of developing COPD with time.

You may not find out immediately if you have COPD but there are some signs that you could watch out for which may serve as a warning sign. More often than not, COPD begins with incessant coughing that could get worse especially during morning hours. Coughing is usually the first sign of the onset of COPD. From excessive coughing, the symptom may aggravate to the next stage which is excessive mucus production or phlegm. It basically means that your lungs think irritants are entering your body, and it is trying to flush them out.

In the next stage, you might start experiencing shortness of breath. You will notice that it takes more effort now to do the same level of activities than earlier. You need to put in more effort to breathe in and out. Shortness of breath is followed by wheezing in which you will hear a whistling or squeaky sound coming from your chest. You will also feel tightness in your chest.

You will also start experiencing that the reduced inhalation and exhalation of air and the labor of breathing tires you out easily. Fatigue is a common symptom associated with COPD. Your energy level will go down and stamina will go down than before.


The first step towards diagnosing COPD is a chat with your physician who will look for signs and symptoms. You will be asked about your and your family’s medical history, your smoking preferences, environment of your work, exposure to pollutants, and so on.

Followed by general consultation, you will put through some tests to assess the presence of COPD. Lung function test (spirometry) is commonly done. It is done to measure how much and how fast you can breathe in and out air. In other words, it is a way to know how effective your lungs are at supplying oxygen.

A test of the arterial blood gas is also done to determine the level of oxygen in your blood. This requires collecting blood samples from an artery, and the results can tell you accurately the level of oxygen in your blood and whether you need oxygen therapy or not.

Other tests such as exercise tolerance testing and desaturation testing are done to evaluate the amount of oxygen your lungs provide during and after exercise and while resting. A number of other tests can also be performed depending on the severity of COPD and result of other tests.

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