Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a classification that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a progressive illness that makes breathing more challenging.
The typical symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third most significant cause of death in the United States, include persistent coughing or wheezing, excessive mucus, and shortness of breath.
A person’s specific symptoms may indicate the condition is getting worse. This flare-up is referred to as a COPD exacerbation. Numerous things, including respiratory infections, air pollution, and contact with irritants, can aggravate your signs of COPD. Therefore, you must seek medical attention if you think you may be experiencing an exacerbation of COPD, as it can be a severe condition that requires treatment.
Following are the signs of COPD getting worse you should know about.
Increased shortness of breath
People with COPD have damage to their lungs that makes it harder to breathe. As a result, they often feel short of breath (dyspnea) because it takes more effort to make air travel in and out of the lungs. This feeling of breathlessness is also described as:
- Breathing requires more effort
- A heavy feeling in the chest
- Gasping for air
- Hunger for air
It can be uncomfortable to feel out of breath. Additionally, it might induce fear and anxiety in a person. If you find walking up a slight incline or climbing stairs more challenging, that may be one of the signs of COPD getting worse, and you should consult your doctor.
When you breathe, you may make a high-pitched whistling sound called wheezing, brought on by a constriction of the airway. If your wheezing worsens, it can indicate an exacerbation.
Although not all COPD patients wheeze, a study found that wheezing is common in signs of COPD getting worse, recurrent exacerbations, and poorer lung function. Several problems in COPD lead to wheezing, including mucus-filled, congested, inflamed airways, bronchospasms, and lung infections.
From typical signs of COPD getting worse, chest tightness presents a painful situation. However, people may experience a tight chest differently, such as:
- Challenging to breathe deeply
- Breathing is uncomfortable
- Something is positioned on, or wrapped around, the chest
From mild to severe, chest tightness might accompany symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
Increase in mucus and color change
The body produces phlegm to shield the airways from potentially inhaled dust, smoke, and other particles. One of the first signs of COPD getting worse is that people typically notice a change in mucus color or a rapid increase in mucus output. Normal healthy mucus is transparent. However, as it flares up, it may turn white, green, yellow, or brown. Also, lung mucus isn’t easy to remove, unlike a nasal mucus plug.
The body uses coughing as one of its defense mechanisms against infections or irritants. If you cough more frequently than usual, it could be one of the signs of COPD getting worse. As people attempt to clear mucus from their airways, the mucus-filled and irritated airways in their lungs produce coughing.
You can consume a lot of water to thin the mucus if it is thick and challenging to cough. Another way to temporarily release mucus is to use a humidifier or take a hot, steamy shower. Coughing can get uncomfortable or be challenging to control for some people. Rib fractures are one of the potential side effects of this sort of cough. A doctor may suggest an alternative course of action in this situation.
Everybody experiences occasional bouts of fatigue during the day. However, fatigue can be debilitating and difficult for some persons with COPD.
The body’s lack of oxygen is one of the main reasons people with COPD get tired. Reducing oxygen intake caused by COPD lung disease can lower blood oxygen levels. It may result in fatigue and reduced energy levels.
People with COPD may also experience fatigue because of their breathing problems. When you have COPD, breathing might be more difficult, causing your body to use a lot of energy. As a result, your body lacks the power to perform other tasks, which can be one of the signs of COPD getting worse, and developing exhaustion.
Edema, amongst other signs of COPD getting worse, is a disorder that causes swelling in the ankles, legs, and feet. Pulmonary hypertension, often known as Cor Pulmonale, is the cause of this swelling. Emphysema can result in excessive pressure on the pulmonary vessels and right side of the heart, which can lead to inadequate oxygen, inflammation, and other problems.
Before it develops into Cor Pulmonale, pulmonary hypertension must be treated. The disorder of Cor Pulmonale can be extremely dangerous and fatal.
Be prepared in advance because it is easy to panic when exacerbation occurs. It is critical to get in touch with your healthcare provider as soon as you notice signs of COPD getting worse so that they can be evaluated and treated appropriately. Early intervention can enhance your quality of life and potentially stop the progression of COPD. Using a bronchodilator to open your airways, a humidifier to add moisture to the air, and practicing pursed-lip breathing to help you exhale more effectively are all options for managing your symptoms in the interim.
What steps can you take to stop exacerbation?
Stop smoking and avoid being around others who are smoking. Your ability to control your disease and enhance your quality of life will increase once you stop smoking. Additionally, stay consistent with your medications and treatment.
Can someone who has never smoked get COPD?
Smoking is the most prevalent cause of COPD. However, non-smokers can also get the disease. Long-term exposure to toxic fumes and agents, repeated lung infections, second-hand smoking, or lung irritants like smoke from a fire are among the risks.
How can you address the feeling of fatigue in COPD?
People with COPD should maintain a regular exercise schedule and consume plenty of high-fiber foods, wholesome fats, and proteins. Oxygen therapy is another way if you need more assistance managing your fatigue.