Breathing Trouble? 7 Signs Your Lungs Are in the Danger Zone

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We hear a lot about the risks of lung cancer -- but less about a lung condition that's just as common and debilitating, called COPD. This term, which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, refers to a combination of two conditions, emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis, both of which are caused by lung damage from smoking or exposure to other lung irritants, such as asbestos. Whether you're a smoker, a former smoker, or just unlucky, you can develop COPD as a result of damage to your lungs that gradually limits their ability to take in oxygen.

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When your lungs aren't functioning at full capacity, symptoms begin to appear that are sometimes so subtle that you may not recognize them as such. And because COPD is a progressive disease that can't be slowed without treatment -- and because it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. -- it's critical to catch it as soon as possible. Here, seven signs that your lungs are trying to tell you they're in trouble.

1. Shortness of breath

"Many people start to experience shortness of breath, and they just think 'I'm old, I'm out of shape,' and they don't do anything about it other than cutting back their activity level," says Byron Thomashow, a physician and professor at Columbia University Medical Center and chairman of the board of the COPD Foundation. "Then when you have shortness of breath just getting to the bathroom, all of a sudden you take notice."

The problem with this, Thomashow says, is that the lung damage that constitutes COPD can't be reversed; all you can do is halt or slow the progression of the disease. And if you don't start treating it until you're already out of breath just walking around the house, you've got a lot less to work with. Not only that, but cutting back is the last thing you want to do to prevent COPD progression; maintaining and even increasing your activity level is key to keeping the lung function that you have.

One thing to look for: When you're climbing steps or exercising, do you have trouble inhaling a deep breath? An even more telltale sign: Do you take the elevator instead of the stairs to avoid this feeling? Experiment with different activities to see if you have shortness of breath when you increase your level of exertion, and note if there have been any changes over time. "I ask people, how's your breathing compared to last year -- can you do what you used to do a year ago?" says Thomashow. If you feel your ability to draw a deep breath is declining, ask your doctor to perform lung function tests to give you a clear picture of your lung health.


1 day ago, said...

My Daddy is 87 years old and in a Nursing Home. His pulmonary doctor told him yesterday "your lungs are good as they're ever going to be." What does that mean? Is this the end stage?


over 1 year ago, said...

like to now more


almost 2 years ago, said...

The information is very valuable to me personally. I intend to make an appointment with my doctor. Additionally, my father has been experiencing symptoms stated in the article. He has an appointment to see a specialist due to continual coughing, and shortness of breath. It will be interesting to find out what the specialist says.


almost 2 years ago, said...

It,s not so much geeting less oxygen it,s more the fact your unable to get all the air out when exhaling


almost 2 years ago, said...

I have some of these symptoms. The ankle swelling in one leg is related to cellulitis in 2007 and a fracture in the same leg in 2010. I have to accept that it will never be the same again. But I will follow up with the other items, and will shortly have a lung function test. I cycle about 15 klms most days and also walk with a Heart Foundation Group once a week, whereby we alter the walks between easy and challenging. I am 73 and obviously feeling the effects of smoking, which I gave away 20 years ago. I was not a heavy smoker, but all I can say now is "never start".


almost 2 years ago, said...

Pictures of lungs with COPD in comparison with Interstitial Lung Disease.


over 2 years ago, said...

Amost 40 years I was smoking. Suddenly I gave up for one year. I had maintained very nice health and I was focussing well on my job without any urge for smoking. Slight running or climbing steps did not gave me any breathing problem. Thinking smoking is under control, I sarted to smoke in a limited manner but I noticed underneath my feet some wetness is felt and also unable to walk briskly after finishing smoking. I believe it Is due to smoking only. Can any one help me with the reason so that smoking once in while in a day can be stopped as I found myself having control over smoking.


over 2 years ago, said...

I have mod COPD. I now have wt loss headaches, less energy, and exhaustion. Quit Smoking 2 mths ago. W/D combined r brutal Dee


over 2 years ago, said...

I do have the feeling that I can not take a deep breath after even moderate exercise and must rest offen, however I check my O2 sat. and it stays around 99/98 never lower than 96. Is this normal. Maybe I am "JUST OUT OF SHAPE". I would like to know.


over 2 years ago, said...

Dr. told me at the VA just go home and stay in A/C. Can't get them to put me on oxygen. Doing my meds, getting sores in my mouth. Go out in the heat and humidity and can't hardly breath and cough and hack. but oxygen level don't get low enough to worry them so just deal with it is pretty much what I am told. I have just about had enough of it.


over 2 years ago, said...

This was very helpful to me since I have been thinking along these lines for a while. I have4 of the7 signs now. I plan to contact my doctor right away. Thank you.


over 2 years ago, said...

that's good but they didn't say that the person need to inhale some oils like coconut oil soaked up the lungs can get you get some therapy or buy something else for a home medication a CBD or a Kimotherapy drug cant kill you and doctors cant prescribe them either without getting the radiation with the drugs its a drug scam is what it is they sell you a big kimo therapy plan which if it doesn't kill you healthwise ill definably kill your money andm the feral reserve i don't think doctors are doing the justice on saving the patients any money at all noit a care in the world if our nation is fallible and can run out of money if doctors don't chan\ge their set paths someday I look forward to the day when all American will have been bedridden because of their bad am of over killed medical treatment they and thir doctors give their patients westeren medicine need s a big giant nail in the coofin because someday the country will have not more money left for kimotherapy or any other money left for that matter all because they didn't listen to this message right now so do something dacters you will kill America on the national debt ceiling issue without any therapy exept radatiuon and a lot of waste and no medicines drugs we don't want to get all that radiation and I don't like the national debt ceiling being breached by this kind of things your on so be cheaper on the therapys please were dieing so you better up antioxidant in high amount into the lung would be best and we need at least a mionor care of doctors without a big treatment plan for cancer that's crazy at the time were bankrupt already and going to spiral ionto a debt meltdown by this November so change is needed enevitably right leess radiuon and more of the good medices in smaller amount less kill and more money leftover for the country would be my prescription


over 2 years ago, said...

lol


over 2 years ago, said...

i had a pneumonectomy of my left lung 11 years ago (because of cancer) I have not been on oxygen since the surgery. Lately by oxygen levels has fluctuated a lot - as low as 77 to 94. Does it seem I need to be on oxygen to keep it at a constant level? I'm 77 years old. a female.


over 2 years ago, said...

Shortness of breath in cold breese for about 10 to 15 minutes when going from room tempature to a cold breese. extreme shorness of breathe.


over 2 years ago, said...

Even worse - you can be diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (one of the 180 pulmonary fibrosis diseases). Find more information about pulmonary fibrosis on the websites of IPF Today - www.ipftoday.com and the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation - www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org


over 2 years ago, said...

Good article. I cycle almost daily, people I used to overtake now pass me! I have a regular daily cough with phlegm out put, green. I am an ex smoker,20 years, it is now catching up with me. I do have right foot swelling ankle, cellulitis in this leg 2007, followed by a fracture of same leg in 2010. This year (Feb) I had a stent inserted in my right upper leg. The ankle swelling has increased.


over 2 years ago, said...

Good informative article for sure. I'm in my fourteenth year of being treated for COPD and you tell it like it is. I've been on oxygen the last ten of those years which has been a big help for a little better quality of life. I have no one to blame for my COPD as I chose to smoke when I was a teenage. I quit twenty-three years ago cold turkey but the damage to my lungs was already done. I have to believe the government could has put a stop or controls to smoking but did not want to give up the tax dollars tobacco generates. years ago.


over 2 years ago, said...

I'm very surprised that nobody mentioned Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency as a common cause of COPD & emphysema. It is a genetic condition. Please go to: http://alpha-1foundation.org/what-is-alpha-1/ It runs in families & I've discovered that many doctors don't know anything about it. Please read!


over 2 years ago, said...

Sounds like Sarcoidosis!


over 2 years ago, said...

I have copd and I take Spiriva and other meds I would like to exercise my lungs to help me breath better I quit smoking a year ago cold turkey what do u recommend I do to exercise my lungs


over 2 years ago, said...

This article was very deucational my paerents had it and I might be headed that way but My doctor and I have talked about it so he is keeping an eye on me and now I kow alot than I did Now I can try to get my hubby on borad He smokes way to much and he is gone most of the time he is a truck driver so I don't see all that he does but he does use a c-pap machime and he is up and down all night whan he is at home thanks for ths article it is most enlightinhs