Heed the warning signs: 10 symptoms of COPD

Heed the warning signs: 10 symptoms of COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, diagnosed in nearly 16 million people nationwide, actually refers to a group of diseases—including emphysema and chronic bronchitis—that cause airflow blockages and breathing problems. 

COPD was the fourth-leading cause of death in American adults in 2018, and while nearly 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition, the actual prevalence may be much higher. In fact, over half of all adults with poor pulmonary function weren’t aware that they had COPD. 

According to the CDC, some groups of people are at higher risk for developing COPD, including: 

  • Women
  • People 65 and older
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives and multiracial non-Hispanics
  • People who were unemployed, retired, or unable to work
  • People with less than a high school education
  • People who were divorced, widowed, or separated
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a history of asthma


With such a high incidence rate, and with so many cases remaining undiagnosed, it’s important to be educated about the symptoms and warning signs of COPD—because while there is no cure for COPD, treatments are available that can greatly improve outlook and quality of life. Here are 10 main symptoms of COPD: 

  • Chronic cough: A persistent cough that doesn’t subside for weeks, months, or years.
  • Mucus: May be transparent, white, pale green, or yellow.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing after physical exertion.
  • Tightness in chest: Especially when inhaling, making breathing labored.
  • Wheezing: A whistling sound while breathing.
  • Recurring chest infections: Including the common cold. 
  • Blue lips and nails: An indicator of low blood oxygen levels.
  • Mental confusion: Can be caused by restricted airways
  • Rapid heartbeat: Restricted airways reduce circulation of oxygen-rich blood, causing the heart to work harder. 
  • Weight loss: Restricted breathing means the body requires more fuel to facilitate the process. 

At Texas IPS’ Obstructive Lung Diseases clinic, we provide state-of-the-art care for our COPD patients. From diagnosis to management, we provide the most advanced therapies available for the comprehensive care of our patients. Our goal is to improve quality of life and preserve lung function so our patients can breathe easier and feel strong. Schedule an appointment today.

About Texas IPS

Texas IPS, based in San Antonio, is an independent physician owned medical practice specializing in the treatment of pulmonary, sleep, and critical care medicine. Texas IPS’ knowledgeable physician staff is composed of highly trained clinicians dedicated to providing high quality care through a patient centered approach using advanced technology and innovation.