Signs and Symptoms of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) sometimes is not diagnosed in the early stages because people may slowly modify their lifestyles to be able to perform daily activities that do not cause shortness of breath. If you have shortness of breath or any of the signs or symptoms listed below, be sure and talk to your health care professional and ask to have a lung function test, such as spirometry. Remember that COPD is treatable, and an early diagnosis can help you manage symptoms and breathe better.


  1. Breathlessness. You may feel like there is a heavy weight on your chest, a sense of increased effort to breathe, air hunger or gasping, or that you can't take in or fully blow out a full breath.
  2. Cough. Often with mucus production but sometimes without. May be intermittent but can eventually occur throughout the day.
  3. Wheezing and chest tightness. Often occur after physical activity or other exertion.
  4. Fatigue. This may occur because you're out of shape or not getting enough oxygen. Typically occurs later in the disease.
  5. Weight loss and loss of appetite. These symptoms can occur later in the disease and are signs of severe and very severe COPD.
  6. Rib fractures. Severe coughing can cause rib fractures.
  7. Ankle swelling. This results from heart failure and may be a sign of very severe disease.
  8. Depression and anxiety. Make sure you tell your health care professional about these conditions so you can get appropriate treatment. They both can make your condition worse.

This resource was created with the support of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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