Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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.

REFERENCES:

Kleinschmidt, Paul. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Emphysema in Emergency Medicine." Medscape.com. Jan. 27, 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/807143-overview>.

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

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017

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