Typically, emphysema symptoms include shortness of breath and the feeling of not being able to breathe. A cough that doesn't go away and coughing up lots of mucus are also common; these often occur years before the flow of air in and out of the lungs is reduced. The severity of a person's symptoms depends on how much of the lung has been destroyed.
The predominant symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath or the feeling of not being able to get enough air. A person may initially visit the doctor because he or she has begun to feel short of breath during activity, but as the disease progresses, this symptom may be present all the time.
Most people with emphysema are at least 40 years old or around middle age when symptoms start. It is unusual, but possible, for people less than 40 years old to have emphysema symptoms.
Common symptoms of emphysema include:
- Sputum (mucus) production
- Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe)
- Chest tightness.
A cough that doesn't go away and coughing up lots of mucus are common in people with emphysema. These often occur years before the flow of air in and out of the lungs is reduced. However, not everyone with a cough and sputum production goes on to develop COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and not everyone with emphysema has a cough.
The severity of the emphysema symptoms depends on how much of the lung has been destroyed. If you continue to smoke, the lung destruction is faster than if you stop smoking.