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Emphysema Symptoms

It's possible to have emphysema for many years without noticing any symptoms. This is because symptoms usually begin gradually, and we have been designed to have more lung function than we need. Eventually enough of the lung becomes damaged and symptoms will begin to appear.

Primary Symptom

The primary symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath. At first, it is likely that you will notice shortness of breath only when you are performing physical activities, such as climbing stairs or doing yard work. However, as emphysema progresses, it eventually causes shortness of breath with minimal activity or even when you're at rest.

Other Symptoms

Though shortness of breath is the main symptom of emphysema, other symptoms are sometimes present:

  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough that can be dry or productive
  • Decreased ability to exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet and legs
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue

Advanced Symptoms

In cases of advanced emphysema, symptoms can become so severe that they interfere with day-to-day activities. See your doctor immediately if:

  • You're so short of breath that you cannot climb stairs
  • Your fingernails or lips turn blue with physical exertion
  • You're not mentally alert

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of emphysema, request an appointment with a Temple pulmonologist or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our pulmonologists who diagnose and treat emphysema.