A cough that just won’t go away, labored breathing when you climb stairs, and hoarseness can cause alarms to go off. Here’s what you need to know about these and the sometimes unexpected symptoms of lung disease.
You have swelling, pain, and tenderness in one leg
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it would be among the symptoms of lung disease. But these leg problems could be a sign that you have deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in your leg, says Andrea McKee, MD, chairman of radiation oncology at the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center Sophia Gordon Cancer Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. McKee also sits on the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Lung Cancer Expert Medical Advisory Panel and works with the ALA’s LUNG FORCE initiative to help raise awareness and educate women about lung cancer.
The risk here is that the blood clot could break off and get into your lung, a condition called a pulmonary embolism. A clot in your lung can block blood flow and cause serious damage. Other clues include shortness of breath, problems breathing, and chest pain. (But you may also have no lung symptoms.) It’s important to get help as soon as you can because 30 percent of patients with this condition die, reports the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Try these 11 lung exercises to help you build lung power.
You’re short of breath
A cold or flu can really do a number on you. “If you have an underlying lung issue or if you’re under a lot of stress or dealing with a significant life event, you’re more prone to developing a bacterial infection on top of your cold,” says Dr. McKee. And compromised lung function can become bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis. You’ll need a medical evaluation to determine the problem and antibiotics to recover.
You’ve started taking the elevator instead of the stairs
If you feel as if your breathing is labored during normal activities and you’ve developed a chronic cough (without first having a cold) or have shortness of breath, your doctor may test for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the ALA. And while 11 million people have been diagnosed, many more people have no idea they have it—particularly women. Plus, many people think that shortness of breath while walking across a parking lot simply happens as you age, but this isn’t a normal toll of getting older. Also read about these 7 silent signs you may have COPD.