Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What are the symptoms of COPD?"
I'm a 24 year old female and I have had bronchitis at least 10 times in the past year. Twice I have had pleurisy to go along with it, and I have also had the flu and many minor colds associated with it. I don't smoke, but I am around smokers. My lungs hurt all the time, especially if it is cold or there is a lot of smoke or other agitators in the air. Could this be chronic bronchitis or emphysema?
Being sick as many times as you are describing is concerning for someone your age, especially as you are a nonsmoker. It is very important for you to see your primary care provider who might refer you to a pulmonologist (lung specialist) to discuss your frequent infections and symptoms. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis or both. It is usually caused by long-term smoking. It is very rare in those less than 40 and even more rare in young nonsmokers. However, it can happen to those who have a rare genetic disorder called alpha -1 - antitrypsin deficiency. It makes the lungs and liver very sensitive to damage and can lead to a diagnosis of COPD in even healthy nonsmokers in their 20s. It is possible that you have developed asthma, which is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by shortness of breath and wheezing. It makes recovering from respiratory illnesses much more difficult. It is also possible that you were just unlucky and had a bad year but I would highly suggest you rule out more serious conditions such as I discussed above as well as cystic fibrosis and immune disorders. In the meantime, avoid any exposure to smoke and other irritants.
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