Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, means there is damage to the lungs that will not heal, but taking steps to prevent further problems is a key part of managing the disease. Education and preventative care allow people to live quality lives despite their COPD symptoms. The first step is learning to recognize signs that COPD worsening.
4 Signs Your COPD is Getting Worse
- Shortness of Breath: Shortness of breath is a common symptom of COPD, but when breathing becomes more taxed than usual, it is important to take steps to manage oxygen intake immediately. Controlling anxiety is part of the process. Feeling scared is a natural response to breathing difficulty, but will only further exacerbate the condition. Staying calm and incorporating breathing techniques will help. When shortness of breath occurs, try using oxygen if prescribed by the doctor. Keep the oxygen on as long as the breathing problems continue using the prescribed setting. If that is not enough to improve the condition, contact the doctor for further instructions. Staying still and resting will also help. When moving around, go slow to prevent overexertion.
- Shallow Breathing: Shallow breathing is a similar symptom. If when trying to take a deep breathes, the lungs feel like they can’t expand fully this may indicate damage to the lower lobes. This symptom should bring you to the doctor for a quick check up to determine the cause. If the only cause is progression of your COPD, it is likely that you will stay on oxygen to help maintain proper levels. Your doctor may decide to change the setting to improve the flow to make sure you are maintaining healthy O2 levels in your blood.
- Worsening Cough: A cough alone is a symptom of COPD, but if it progresses to where you struggle to catch your breathe and speak, you need to head to the doctor. If you just have a flare up in coughing, work on breathing techniques to try and slow down your breathing and calm your lungs. A worsening cough can be due to a few different things, one is a progression of your COPD, another is too much mucus in the lungs and airways. Either way, a worsening cough is not a good thing and it is vital to see a doctor as soon as you notice your cough worsening. If you notice blood in your cough, seek medical attention right away.
- Fatigue: One of the last major symptoms of worsening COPD is fatigue. If you notice you are easily exhausted after chores or exercises you could once do, give your doctor a call. It can be hard for those with COPD to do what they once did as their COPD progresses, as their lungs are unable to do as much work. Without oxygen getting throughout the body (brain, liver, muscles, etc) the body can struggle to continue working without releasing any carbon dioxide and taking on more oxygen. You can try and fix this at home by doing chores slowly, or start exercising more than you previously did. If you feel exhausted, give yourself a mini-break and try to start where you left off.
There are plenty of different symptoms that can mean your COPD is worsening, but these four are some of the most common symptoms. If you notice any of these worsening, it is vital to reach out to your doctor to make sure there are no other underlying causes. These symptoms can be very serious if they are not caught and treated in time, as your health can begin to rapidly decline.