Symptoms of COPD

1) Signs and symptoms of COPD

Sputum chart

Sputum chart

Symptoms of COPD normally develop over many years

  • Usually in patients who are over 35 years of age.
  • A chronic cough is present on most days.
  • Along with a cough there can be increase in the amount of spit or phlegm.
  • The colour of your spit or phlegm may change from frothy and white to slightly yellow or green if you have a chest infection.
  • Breathlessness occurs on most days which can be worse on exercise and during chest infections.

Sputum may be clear or white and frothy (mucoid).

Sputum which is slightly thicker and cloudy or opaque (mucopurulent).

If you have an infection you may see the colour of your sputum getting darker with either a yellow of green tinge. (purulent) This can be a sign to get early advice and medication from your GP or practice nurse.

If the sputum is darker green it may also start to become thicker and more difficult to cough up in order to clear your airways. This can be caused by a virus or bacteria. (severe purulent).

For more information on your symptoms see:
Moving on together: Understanding and managing symptoms section [.pdf, 6.08MB]
Moving on Together (MoT): A self-management workbook by NHS Ayrshire & Arran.