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Warning Signs of COPD

More than 16.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the American Lung Association says millions more may have the disease and be undiagnosed. Without proper treatment, COPD can lead to significant complications and even death. 

At Central Clinic, our family medicine specialist, Poonam Malhotra, MD, and her team use advanced techniques to diagnose COPD, a chronic lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. 

As a leading family physician in Spring Hill, Florida, Dr. Malhotra is dedicated to providing custom treatment solutions aimed at helping our patients lead healthier lives. 

While there’s no cure for COPD, we can help you manage the condition, reducing symptoms so you enjoy a better quality of life. Learning to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of COPD helps you get care as early as possible. Here’s what to look for.

Shortness of breath, persistent cough, thick mucus

These are the three primary symptoms of COPD, all caused by decreased lung function and other airway changes that occur in emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These symptoms can be very mild in the early stages of the disease, becoming worse as the disease progresses.


Like asthma, COPD can cause your airways to become narrow and inflamed, resulting in wheezing noises when you inhale, exhale, or both.


COPD prevents your lungs from getting enough oxygen, and that means your other organs aren’t getting enough oxygen either. Over time, lack of oxygen causes weakness and a persistent feeling of tiredness, even after a full night’s sleep.

Frequent respiratory infections

People with COPD have reduced lung function, which means their lungs have to work a lot harder to keep their blood and organs oxygenated. Extra work wears the lungs down, making them more prone to respiratory infections, like pneumonia or the flu.

Chest tightness

Many people with COPD experience a feeling of tightness, heaviness, or fullness in the chest, primarily due to a loss of elasticity in the lung fibers. COPD also causes excess mucus production, which adds to feelings of fullness or tightness.

Irregular heartbeat

Your heart depends on nerve signals to beat in a normal fashion. COPD can damage nerve fibers, leading to an irregular heartbeat like atrial fibrillation.

Swollen feet or ankles

Because COPD can interfere with your heart function and make it hard for your blood to circulate, it can also lead to swelling in your lower legs and feet. This condition is called peripheral edema, and without treatment, it can interfere with your regular daily activities.

Sleep problems

Because COPD affects the way you breathe, it can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. While fatigue is a symptom of COPD on its own, sleep problems caused by COPD can make your feelings of tiredness even worse.

Keep your lungs healthy

COPD is the third leading disease-related cause of death in the United States, and the number of COPD-related deaths is growing. It’s a lot more common among people who smoke or who used to smoke, as well as people who have been exposed to a lot of air pollution. 

But there are other factors that can also increase your risk for developing COPD, including a family history of COPD or a personal history of lung infections. 

In addition to caring for people diagnosed with COPD, Dr. Malhotra offers care options that can prevent COPD and manage its symptoms and risk factors, including weight-loss programs and custom treatments for depression, anxiety, and diabetes

To learn more about COPD diagnosis and management, call us at our Spring Hill, Florida, clinic or use our online system to schedule an appointment today.

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