Due to the fact that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) mostly affects smokers, and because it takes some time for the disease to develop, COPD symptoms is rarely seen in people under the age of 45. It often takes more than 20 years of smoking before the disease has developed to a point where it is possible to diagnose it.
The disease usually starts slowly and people with COPD are usually able to "get used" to having COPD symptoms, and do not think much about the slow deterioration of their physical shape, that they are getting more and more out of breath from less and less physical effort, and that infections are coming more and more often.
In the beginning, airway infections have a tendency to appear more often and go on for a longer period of time. Instead of having one "cold" a year that disappears within 8-10 days, they have several infection periods lasting for two or more weeks.
After some time, shortness of breath occurs during up-hill walks and it becomes difficult to keep up with other people of the same age. In case of more severe COPD, the periodical infections are developed into more and more severe and more prolonged exacerbations, and the shortness of breath will occur even during walks on flat ground, or even during rest.
UK/GEN/15/0058b Date of preparation: December 2015