Symptoms of chronic bronchitis tend to begin in smokers who are older than age 40. These symptoms persist and gradually worsen for the rest of the smoker’s life unless he or she quits smoking.

The symptoms include :

  • Cough : Initially it begins as “smoker’s cough”. Daily morning cough with clear sputum (mucus) is the earliest symptom of COPD. The cough is also worse at night when the patient lies down hence in advanced disease patient must sleep sitting up (i.e. with raised pillows). Patient often complains that he awakens during the night feeling ‘choked up’. As the problem advances the cough begins to last throughout the day and throughout the year, with increasing amounts of mucus production.
  • Expectoration (spitting of mucus) : In the early stage of the disease the mucus is scanty, thin and clear but in later stages because of superadded infection the mucus may become profuse, thick and yellow or greenish (purulent).
  • Shortness of breath : Difficulty in breathing especially on exertion. There is a feeling of tightness in chest and a wheeze (whistling sound) especially in the morning before the excessive mucus is cleared up by coughing. As the disease progresses the shortness of breath may be caused by very ordinary activities like having a bath or dressing up. In advanced bronchitis patient may be unable to walk or climb stairs without supplemental oxygen.
  • Fever only during acute phases of chronic bronchitis.
  • Reddish face, cheeks, palms.   
  • Swelling of ankles, feet and legs.
  • Blueness of skin (Cyanosis) : Some patients with chronic bronchitis may develop a bluish tint to the skin (due to lack of oxygen) and rapid breathing. Chronic bronchitis patient presents as “blue bloaters” (because of swelling and blueness of skin).
  • Chronic bronchitis also makes you more prone to infections and respiratory insufficiency (i.e. reduce in lung function). The condition if not treated timely can cause respiratory failure which may further progress to heart failure and the patient may have chest pain along with swelling in ankles, legs and sometimes abdomen.