COPD is considered a progressive disease, as symptoms get worse over time if left untreated. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it means that significant lung damage has already occurred.
Common signs of COPD:
- Coughing with or without production of large amounts of mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Muscle weakness
- Recurrent respiratory infections
COPD affects each person differently. Many people wait until severe lung function decline before seeking the help of a professional. Identifying and treating COPD in its early stages is essential to maintaining a high quality of life.
The cause of COPD is almost always smoking; however, home and work environment can also be a factor.
There are 3 main risk factors:
- Tobacco smoking
- Long-term exposure to irritants (e.g., chemical fumes, secondhand smoke, air pollution)
- Genetic disorder alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (accounts for one percent of COPD cases)