Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

COPD is characterized by a longstanding (chronic) obstruction to air flow out of the lungs. It can take different forms and have different symptoms. Symptoms of COPD can also vary in severity. Symptoms include

Other possible symptoms can include

The advanced stages of COPD can lead to symptoms like swelling of the feet and ankles, bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis), morning headaches, and weight loss.

Causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is cigarette smoking and/or exposure to cigarette smoke. Other causes include air pollution, infectious diseases, and certain genetic or inherited conditions like alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Other copd symptoms and signs

  • Bluish Discoloration of the Skin and Mucous Membranes (Cyanosis)
  • Chest Tightness
  • Cough
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Finger Clubbing
  • Frequent Respiratory Infections
  • Morning Headaches
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sputum Production
  • Swelling of the Feet and Ankles
  • Weight Loss
  • Wheezing


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

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Kleinschmidt, Paul. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Emphysema in Emergency Medicine." Jan. 27, 2016. <>.

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.