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What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?
COPD is a slowly progressive disease so it is not unusual for the initial
signs and symptoms to be a bit different from those in the late stages of the
disease. There are many ways to evaluate or stage COPD, often based on symptoms.
Usually the first signs and symptoms of COPD include a productive cough
usually in the morning, with colorless sputum (mucus). Individuals who may develop
sudden or severe (acute) chest pain should be evaluated at an emergency
department to be sure there is no cardiac problem that causes symptoms similar
Perhaps the most significant symptom of COPD is breathlessness, termed
shortness of breath (dyspnea). Early on, this symptom may occur occasionally
with exertion and eventually may progress to breathlessness while doing a simple
task such as standing up, or walking to the bathroom. Some people may develop
(a whistling or hissing sound while breathing).
There have been efforts to stage COPD based on symptoms and other measures.
One of the most recent efforts is the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive
Lung Disease program (GOLD). The staging is based on the results of a pulmonary
function test. Specifically, the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)
of a standard predicted value is measured, based on the individual patient's
physical parameters. The staging of COPD by this method is as follows:
Stage I is FEV1 of equal or more than
80% of the predicted value
Stage II is FEV1 of 50% to 79% of the
Stage III is FEV1 of 30% to 49% of the
Stage IV is FEV1 of less than 30% of
predicted value or an FEV1 less than 50% of predicted value plus respiratory
Other staging methods are similar but are based on the severity of the
shortness of breath symptom that is sometimes subjective. The above staging is
measurable objectively, providing the patient is putting forth their best