Some people think that having difficulty breathing is just part of aging. However, breathing difficulties should never be ignored. Problems breathing or catching your breath after even minimal exertion can be the first signs of lung disease, including COPD, asthma and lung cancer. Learn the early warning signs so you can seek treatment before lung disease becomes serious or even life threatening. Early detection can save your life.
According to the American Lung Association, these are the warning signs of lung disease.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a lung specialist - also known as a pulmonologist.
Chronic cough: A cough that you have had for a month or longer is considered chronic. This is an important early symptom that tells you something is wrong with your respiratory system.
Shortness of breath: It's not normal to experience shortness of breath that doesn't go away after exercising, or that you have after little or no exertion. Labored or difficult breathing—the feeling that it is hard to breathe in and out—is also a warning sign.
Chronic mucus production: Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by the airways as a defense against infections or irritants. If your mucus production has lasted a month or longer, this could indicate lung disease.
Wheezing: Noisy breathing or wheezing is a sign that something unusual is blocking your lungs' airways or making them too narrow.
Coughing up blood: If you are coughing up blood, it may be coming from your lungs or upper respiratory tract. Wherever it's coming from, it signals a health problem.
Chronic chest pain: Unexplained chest pain that lasts for a month or more—especially if it gets worse when you breathe in or cough—also is a warning sign.
Four key questions to ask your doctor about lung disease
- Was the disease caught early?
- Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for lung cancer?
- What are my treatment options?
- Are there other lifestyle changes I can make to help my prognosis?