This is a question many people might have, who have been smoking for most of their lives. It's true that smoking tobacco – whether it's in the form of filtered cigarettes, pipes or cigars – is responsible for most cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Even if you don't smoke, you can be at a higher risk of developing COPD as you get older if you've been around people who smoke for most of your life. Pollution in the air can also be a culprit, if you've lived in an area with a lot of air pollution for many years of your life. In any case, you shouldn't ignore the risk factors or the signs and symptoms of COPD. COPD is a serious disease that will cause your quality of life to go down, and will affect all areas of your life.
It's a progressive disease, which means it can quickly worsen over time. How quickly it worsens depends on how you're treated and how well you take care of yourself after diagnosis. Unfortunately, many people either don't recognize the symptoms right away, to get a proper diagnosis and for treatment to begin. This leads to the need for more medication, because the diseases has usually advanced into the severe or moderate-severe stage by the time they are finally diagnosed.
What should you watch out for, to make sure you don't have COPD? Here are a few of the main early signs of COPD, which usually show up soon after the disease has developed into beginning stage. If you're experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor right away so you can be tested for COPD.
You've started coughing up more sputum (mucus from the lungs), and it's lasting for more than 1 month.
The sputum in your lungs is very thick and hard to cough up, and it's been going on for more than 1 month.
You've been having a hard time breathing while doing minor activities, like walking up and down the stairs, or walking to check the mail at the end of your driveway. This can include asthmatic symptoms, like wheezing.
You've been having coughing fits that last for more than 2 weeks after you've had a cold or other sickness.
You're experiencing any of the above symptoms along with chest pain that lasts for more than 2 weeks.
If you're over the age of 40, and especially if you've been exposed to air pollutants, secondhand smoke and if you've smoked for many years, you should definitely get tested if you've started experiencing these symptoms. Call your doctor and schedule a visit to discuss your concerns.
He or she will listen to your lungs themselves, and likely refer you to a pulmonary specialist, who will examine you and put you through the testing process. The tests that are done to see if someone has COPD, include a spirometery test, an arterial blood gas test, and chest x-rays.