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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms & What You Can Do

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms & What You Can Do

People living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have to cope with many challenging symptoms. COPD encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  In COPD, decreased airflow into and out of lungs makes breathing difficult. Emphysema destroys alveoli — the lungs’ tiny air sacs. During this process, holes form in the inner walls of the alveoli and damage the elasticity of the airways. Eventually, alveoli collapse and trap air in the lungs.

In chronic bronchitis, the air passages of the lungs become inflamed, and the body produces excess mucus. Some of the most common chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms include shortness of breath, constant coughing, fatigue and chest tightness. COPD symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and they may cause significant anxiety. Here are some tips to help manage the most troubling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms: Chest Tightness

Many people with COPD experience chest tightness. Feeling anxious or worried can worsen chest tightness. Most people describe chest tightness in the following ways:

  • A squeezing or crushing sensation in the chest.
  • The chest feels stiff.
  • A band is tightening around the chest.
  • The feeling of pressure on the lungs keeps them from filling with air.

Often, chest tightness happens at the same time as shortness of breath or wheezing. Typically, chest tightness occurs because of an increase in mucus production in the lungs and the narrowing of the airways.

If you feel chest tightness and anxiety, try a relaxation technique. The belly breathing technique helps you stay calm and focus on your breathing. Try sitting in a comfortable chair and placing a hand on your chest. Next, put the other hand on your belly. Inhale slowly through your nose and focus on feeling your belly rise. Then, exhale slowly and repeat.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms: Fatigue

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms & What You Can Do

In general, fatigue is defined as exhaustion and lack of energy, and it is different from normal tiredness. People with COPD often experience fatigue. In fact, most people with COPD feel that fatigue can be as difficult to manage or debilitating as shortness of breath.

COPD fatigue occurs for many reasons, such as depression, reduced ability to exercise, decreased quality of life and progression of COPD. Some studies have linked fatigue with reduced time spent outside, frequent COPD flare-ups, as well as the following:

  • A change in weight or muscle mass
  • Hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels)
  • Decrease in endurance or strength
  • Decline in cognition
  • Recurrent respiratory infections

Coping with fatigue presents daily challenges. However, there are steps you can take to gain more energy.

Exercising consistently and eating a balanced diet can have significant positive effects on your overall energy. This includes gentle exercises such as walking and Tai Chi. When you exercise, you help your body stay strong and flexible. Getting your blood moving helps your body make more efficient use of the oxygen, fluids and nutrients it needs.

Keeping your mind engaged and active also helps with fatigue. When you’re busy doing something, your mind has to think about the activity at hand. Many people with COPD become housebound because of their symptoms. Try a new craft, read your favorite book, put together a puzzle or invite a friend over for tea. Soon, you’ll be busy thinking about what you’re doing rather than about how tired you feel.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms: Constant Coughing

Another one of the common chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms is constant coughing. For many people, constant coughing becomes embarrassing and worsens as COPD progresses. Constant coughing often occurs because of irritation and mucus inside of the lungs. Many people find coughing disruptive, especially when they are trying to fall asleep.

While coughing becomes annoying and uncomfortable, it can actually help. Deep coughing can clear mucus clogging your airways and allow you to breathe more easily. Some doctors teach their patients how to cough and effectively clear their airways.

Talk with your doctor before trying any coughing techniques.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms: Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is a common COPD symptom and one of the most frustrating. Also known as breathlessness or dyspnea, shortness of breath makes people feel like they cannot get enough oxygen into their lungs. In the mild and moderate COPD stages, shortness of breath may happen during physical activity. As COPD progresses, breathlessness increases in severity and may occur while at rest.

It’s normal for people to avoid the activities that make them feel breathless. However, exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of breathlessness. Exercise increases stamina and strength as well. Even walking short distances a few times a day can have a big impact on your overall quality of life. Ask your doctor about what types of exercise would work best for you.

Some doctors recommend their patients see a respiratory therapist to learn how to breathe more efficiently. Respiratory therapists can teach you how to preserve your breath during activity and how to regain your breath when you feel short of breath.

What Can You Do?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Symptoms & What You Can Do

When these symptoms occur, many people feel sudden anxiety. While it’s completely normal to feel anxious about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms, following the simple steps we mention above may help you stay calm and breathe easier. In combination with our tips, you and your doctor will work together to develop a COPD treatment plan. Treatment plans are individualized to each patient’s needs. Doctors often prescribe medications such as bronchodilators, corticosteroids and inhalers to reduce inflammation and open the airways.

Some people have seen improvements in their ability to breathe, stamina and overall quality of life after trying cellular therapy for COPD. Cellular treatment works to promote healing from within the lungs. In fact, many patients have become more active and reduced their oxygen therapy use after treatment. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.


  1. Phoebe

    12 months ago

    Hi Linda,

    We have let our medical team know of your concerns, and our team has been trying to contact you to discuss your concerns. We will have our medical team reach out to you again. In the meantime, feel free to contact your patient coordinator to discuss your concerns further by calling (855) 313-1149.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  2. Linda

    12 months ago

    Im going to speak out, I feel that my cellular treatment was compromised, during last treatment they stopped to show me THE separation of cells , from blood, then they took back to lab I kept asking if everything was OK it was taking way to long.when they came back the amount was less than half of previous day’s, I also questioned this , they commented this was normal I really feel I got short changed and something went wrong when they removed the blood from lab to show me cells I questioned this and no significant answer and have not received anymore follow up calls since. This makes me wonder how qualified the Dallas institute is and I feel they should have given me the 3rd treatment again, for what the procedure cost the nurse commented they didn’t no the cost well I have a hard time believing this, just can’t get 3rd treatment off my mind and feel like I got cheated.

  3. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Hi Myron,

    First and foremost, we’re sorry to hear that you did not see the results you hoped for after your treatment. While treatment helps 84.5 percent of patients, there is a small percentage of people it doesn’t help as hoped. If you have any questions moving forward, feel free to contact your patient coordinator or give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  4. Myron

    1 year ago

    Sorry to say, the cell treat ment did not help me at all was very disapointed. Was sorry I spent the money for nothing.
    I would be interested in knowing, if it helps anyone.

  5. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Dear Roanne,

    First and foremost, we’re sorry to hear of the continued challenges you are facing with COPD and that treatment did not work as much as you had hoped. While cellular treatment has helped many people, there are some that treatment doesn’t work as well for. Please let us know if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do for you moving forward by contacting your patient coordinator at (855) 313-1149. Thank you for your comment and for sharing some of your story with us. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  6. Phoebe

    1 year ago

    Hello Pat,

    Thanks for your comment. Please keep us updated on your progress, and feel free to contact your patient coordinator if you have any questions or updates. You can also reach us at (855) 313-1149. We wish you the best and look forward to hearing about your progress.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  7. Pat O'Day

    1 year ago

    i was just treated by the lung institute and will keep readers to this page posted on what changes I see. I suffer from rather mild copd but none of this is fun. stand bye!

  8. Roanne Adams

    1 year ago

    I too had this treatment but UNFORTUNATELY I was one who it did not benefit from it. my lungs are now totally gone and my breath is slowly leaving my body, i have to adjust my oxygen level as to what I am doing. I am happy for the ones this helped but just wanted others to know that this does not work for every one. Good luck and god bless!!!!!!

  9. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Lee,
    Thank you for your post. If you’re looking for a lung disease support group, we’d recommend talking with your primary care doctor. Your doctor may have recommendations for groups in Waterville, Augusta or Bangor. Thanks again and have a great day.

  10. Lee

    1 year ago

    Appreciate the help that you give. I’m looking for a support group in the Waterville, Me area. Can you help. I’ve just been told that I also ha bronchiectasis.

  11. M R

    1 year ago

    Thank you for your post, Jean!
    We’re glad to hear that our articles are helping you. Have a great day!

  12. Jean Y

    1 year ago

    Thanks for all the information I try to learn all i can about my C O P D even small things can help in coping and dealing with this disease and help life be easier and better i like to share so others can learn things that can help. I find a lot of good info on lung disease and other diseases also . I really appreciate the company’s putting helpful hints and tips and the people who work hard at trying to help others by sharing info. Thanks so much for all you do it is greatly appreciated .

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.