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Health Issues

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Symptoms and Facts

In general, symptoms of COPD don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time. People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms suddenly get much worse. Beyond this, signs and symptoms of COPD can vary, depending on which lung disease is most prominent. It's also possible to have many of these symptoms at the same time.

Signs and symptoms of emphysema include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

Chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis occurs mainly in smokers. It's defined as a cough that you have at least three months a year for two consecutive years. People who continue to smoke may go on to develop emphysema, but in smokers who are able to quit, the cough may clear in a few days or weeks.

Signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, especially if you smoke
  • A chronic cough that produces yellowish sputum
  • Shortness of breath in the later stages
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Chronic asthmatic bronchitis
Chronic asthmatic bronchitis is usually chronic bronchitis combined with asthma (bronchospasm). Asthma can occur when inflamed and infected secretions irritate the smooth muscles in your airways. Symptoms are similar to those of chronic bronchitis, but you're also likely to have intermittent — or even daily — episodes of wheezing.