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Ask the Geriatrician

Question: What are the most common symptoms of COPD and when should I see my primary care doctor? 

Answer: COPD is short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is a serious lung disease causing one-fourth of all deaths in the United States. It is usually preventable and most always treatable, especially if detected when it is mild. Unfortunately many people who have COPD do not know it.

When Should You be Concerned about the Possibility You Have COPD?

If you smoke or have ever smoked, you should be alert for symptoms of COPD. Also, various inhaled gases and particles (exposure to second-hand smoke or the smoke from other people smoking, chronic exposure to dusts/gases in the workplace) can cause COPD.

What Are the Symptoms to Watch for?

There are two main symptoms: 

  • A cough productive of mucous that lasts for more than 2-3 months.
  • Shortness of breath either just sitting or with physical activity that is worse than you expect (given your physical condition).

If you have either symptom AND have a past history of smoking or exposures as listed above, talk to your family doctor. There is a simple way - PULMONARY FUNCTION TESTING - to detect COPD, even in its early stage. And the earlier it is detected, the more helpful treatment can be. 

Peter Warrington, D.O., is a physician who specializes in family medicine and geriatrics. He has offices in Media and Crum Lynne, and can be reached at (610) 499-7180.

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