COPD includes two different lung diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. People with these conditions have damage to the airways and the air sacs inside their lungs. This damage makes it harder for them to breathe and to get enough oxygen into their bodies with each breath. COPD produces many outward symptoms, which slowly get worse over time and all of which originate from the lung and airway damage. The main and most commonly known symptom is the difficulty to breathe and the requirement for Home Oxygen Therapy, where patients can use oxygen at home to help ease their symptoms.
1. Mucus-Producing Cough
The cough is the most obvious symptom of COPD. The damage to the lungs causes them to produce more thick mucus than normal which can block the airway and make it difficult to breathe. Coughing it up is the body’s natural and most efficient way to clear it from the body. One way to ease a phlegmy cough is to drink extra fluids, which helps loosen up the mucus so the body can remove it more easily.
With COPD the air that you inhale with each breath has to travel down narrowed airways. The air struggles to get through and causes the walls of the airways to vibrate. This vibration combined with moving air produces a whistling sound which we call wheezing. Bronchodilators and steroid medicines can be given to widen the airways and relieve the wheezing and ease breathing.
3. Blue Lips and Nails
This condition can also result in your lips and nails turning a bluish colour. This illustrates the lack of oxygen being delivered to those parts of the body and an indication that there isn’t enough oxygen in your blood generally. Normally, the blood is red but when it’s deprived of oxygen, blood turns blue which gives the lips and fingernails their blue hue. A bluish discolouration of the skin is also called cyanosis. It’s a very serious symptom as it indicates extremely low oxygen levels and if noticed an immediate call for emergency medical care should be made.
4. Lower Body Swelling
To compensatge for the damage to your lungs, your heart has to pump harder to get enough oxygen to your body. Over time the heart muscle can become damaged and enlarged from the extra work and lower body swelling is an indicator of this. The heart doesn’t beat as forcefully as it should and low blood pressure could lead to a blood clot if not treated.
5. Barrel Chest
Long term sufferers may develop a bulging in their chest which takes on a barrel-like appearance, called a barrel chest. This can form because your lungs are so filled with air that they eventually stretch out your ribcage. A barrel chest can worsen existing breathing problems from COPD, making it even harder for you to catch your breath.
6. Weight Loss
With your lungs not working as well your body has to exert more energy than normal to try to compensate and maintain minimal oxygen levels. This causes you to burn up to 10 times more calories than usual and can result in hunger and fatigue if the calorie intake is’nt increased. Shortness of breath and coughing can also make you less interested in eating and with this combination over time, you’ll start to lose weight. Any weight loss in COPD is a serious sign and when your body is too thin, it can’t protect you as well against infections.