Diagnosis must be made by a medical professional.
Emphysema produces breathlessness, which is typically both progressive and predictable; it progresses year on year with continued smoking, but it is 'the same' from day-to-day. The same amount of exertion will produce the same amount of breathlessness. In bed at night is typically the best time for emphysema sufferers.
Asthma, however, is typically variable from day-to-day and is commonly worse at night and can occur at rest. Emphysema breathlessness is relieved by rest, asthma is not.
Chronic bronchitis is characterised by a cough and phlegm. Bronchiectasis has the same symptoms, but has structural damage to bronchial tubes, visible on a CT scan of the lungs and is not necessarily related to smoking.
Wheezing is a noise on breathing out and can occur with all these diseases, as well as asthma.
Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to suffer chest infections, for instance 'the cold that goes to the chest', as well as sinus infections.
Pneumonia is a more serious chest infection and is also much more likely in smokers.
The symptoms include:
- breathlessness on exertion
- in severe cases, breathlessness even when at rest
- coughing up sputum
- increased susceptibility to chest infections.
If you suspect you or a family member has COPD
Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of ageing. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice the symptoms.
COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease so it's important to talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms.
If you have symptoms or are at risk of developing COPD, make an appointment with your GP for a consultation and a lung function test.
If you do not have any symptoms but are ready to quit smoking, make an extended appointment with you GP to discuss the process of quitting.