5 Uncommon COPD Symptoms and Tips for Dealing with Them



Thick mucus, chronic cough, feeling of breathlessness and fatigue… Do these all sound familiar? I bet they do! These are among the most common complaints of COPD sufferers. If you have COPD, I’m pretty sure  too you have been dealing with these nagging symptoms.


Almost all COPD patients are familiar with the hallmark symptoms of this respiratory disease. However, there are also less common symptoms associated with COPD that you should watch out for. Unfortunately, many patients are unaware about these unusual symptoms that they often go unnoticed and unreported to doctors. Many think that since they are totally unrelated to breathing, they are not caused by their lung condition.


So, for this post, let’s check out some unusual COPD symptoms that you may have been brushing aside for a long time.


1. Weight loss

Although weight loss is a common concern among people living with chronic conditions, weight loss may indicate severe COPD. This occurs as a result of a limited space between the stomach and the hyper-inflated lungs. Due to the limited stomach capacity, eating may cause an uncomfortable feeling so you end up limiting your food intake. Additionally, the effort in breathing itself can burn more calories in people with COPD. It can help to get a nutritional and dietary consultation to ensure that you have sufficient dietary intake.


2. Swollen ankles or fluid retention

For healthy individuals, the kidneys and liver help remove excess fluids from the body. But for people living with COPD, these two organs are unable to function well due to lack of supply of oxygen. This can result in fluid retention and swelling in areas such as legs, ankles and feet.


Elevating your lower extremities can provide symptomatic relief. To completely address this symptom, however, and make sure it isn’t caused by a more serious problem, talk to your doctor about it.


3. Restless legs/leg cramps

Ever experienced that unpleasant sensation or feelings in the legs while sleeping or resting? Restless legs can range from mild tingling or creeping sensations to painful bouts of leg cramps.


What causes restless legs or leg cramps among COPD sufferers remain unknown. Usually, restless legs syndrome does not require medical intervention. However, if it causes severe disruptions in your sleeping pattern, your healthcare provider may recommend muscle relaxants or other alternative therapies.


4. Bloating

Hyperinflation of the lungs and oral breathing can contribute to a feeling of bloating. To minimize such symptoms, practicing nose breathing techniques can greatly help, such as abdominal respiration.


5. Bruising

Some COPD sufferers may notice their skin to be more prone to bruising or tearing. While this is not directly a result of a lung condition, it is often caused by COPD medications, particularly corticosteroids. In case you experience this symptom, make sure to report it to your doctor. He may advise certain adjustments in your medications.


As with other chronic conditions, COPD patients may also experience a sense of hopelessness which can lead to depression. Mental health conditions are not uncommon among individuals with chronic illnesses. Open communication with your support system and physicians is essential in the early management of this condition.


Finally, there are rare (and often severe) symptoms that can indicate a more serious health issues or even indicate a medical emergency. If you experience confusion, slowed mental function, excessive sleepiness, or sudden difficulty of breathing, it’s advisable to immediately go to the emergency room as these are all indicative of respiratory failure.


Reporting every complaint or symptom that you might be experiencing is crucial in the effective management of your COPD. It is important that you build open communication with your healthcare team to ensure that all these symptoms, whether minor or severe, will be properly treated. Remember, a holistic approach in the management of COPD is essential to ensure a better quality of life!


Do you experience any unusual symptoms that could be linked to your COPD? What did you do to alleviate them? Share your experiences below!