Caregiver Insights: Senior In Home Care

6 signs mom or dad may be suffering from COPD

By Michael Connors LVN on Feb 6, 2016 11:18:28 AM

The Signs of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease otherwise known as COPD, is estimated to affect over 12 million American’s today. Another 12 million likely have the condition but are unaware of it according to the ACF (American COPD Foundation).COPD_senior_in_home_care_web.jpg

The problem lies with the delay of recognizing the development of COPD symptoms and the speed of starting treatments to manage the condition. Additionally, the signs & symptoms are very similar to those of other conditions, and when first experienced are ignored or attributed to a less serious cause. A quality, nursing supervised, in home caregiver agency can recognize symptoms early and take steps to more effectively manage the illness.

However, signs and symptoms of COPD usually do not appear until there has been significant damage to the patient’s respiratory tract itself.


Six Signs of COPD

Most persons with COPD develop most or all of the following six signs and symptoms. Severity of the signs and symptoms depends on how much respiratory tract damage has actually been done, and not everyone with COPD shows all or even some of these signs and symptoms.

Furthermore, not everyone has COPD that exhibit these signs and symptoms as well. It is suggested that you talk with your doctor if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms.

1. Ongoing Cough

The single most common signs and symptoms of COPD is a persistent cough that tends to be worse in the morning after just waking up. Coughing is a natural protective action.

A chronic cough however indicates that your respiratory tract may not be functioning correctly and could be attributed to infection or conditions like COPD. Also a cough like this is commonly mistaken to be a “Smokers Cough “because both are productive of mucus.

2. Noticeable increase in mucus produced

A chronic cough is usually accompanied by the 2nd early stage signs and symptoms of the production of excess mucus or phlegm. It is normal for your airways to produce up to several ounces of mucus daily to keep your respiratory tract moist. With COPD or during COPD flare-ups the production of mucus can jump up to 3xs the normal amounts produced.

3. Shortness of Breath

While an ongoing or chronic cough and or an excess production of mucus are considered to be mild “Stage 1 signs and symptoms of COPD “. SOB or “Breathlessness” are now signs and symptoms of the 2nd stage of COPD. It is caused by decreased blood oxygen levels. Initially it may be resultant of just increased physical activity, then it can worsen in the later stages of COPD to manifest with increasing frequency with little or no exertion.

4. Wheezing

The second moderate signs and symptoms of COPD is wheezing. It can sound like squeaking, whistling, etc. It is almost always accompanied by the complaint of chest tightness. Wheezing is a result of your respiratory tract becoming narrowed, experiencing airway obstructions from excess mucus and the spasms from your respiratory tract trying to clear those obstructions. Additionally, wheezing can occasionally indicate that an infection is ongoing or resolving i.e.- pneumonia.

5. Fatigue

Lack of energy, tiredness, decrease in stamina. These typically accompany the other moderate COPD signs and symptoms like wheezing and SOB, due to the energy demand of these signs and symptoms on the body as a whole. While fatigue does not cause damage to your respiratory tract it can affect your quality of life, decrease socialization, increase weight gain, and contribute to the manifestation of generalized depression.

6. Flare ups (Frequent)

The signs and symptoms of COPD generally worsen over time. More occurrences of shortness of breath, wheezing, increased fatigue, become indicators of actual lung/respiratory tract damage that has occurred. You must address these signs and symptoms at their earliest occurrences to decrease the risks of permanent damage through the proper treatment regimens. Severe and worsening flare-ups that are left untreated can be fatal.



COPD is a very serious illness that cannot be cured but has a good chance for effective treatment and management. Early diagnosis and immediate

development/start of a treatment regimen are critical to help control signs and symptoms and to give a much better quality of life to those suffering from COPD.

If you have any of these six signs and symptoms, please see your doctor.

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ACF- American COPD Foundation

ALAS- American Lung Association Sacramento

AARC- American Association for Respiratory Care

ATS- American Thoracic Society

CMSA- Case Management Society of America


Topics: Health/Medical, Home Care Options

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