Top 12 COPD Comorbidities
Last updated: November 2022
COPD is generally considered a disease associated with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Often overlooked are the other chronic conditions sometimes associated with it. These are often referred to as COPD comorbidities. Here is a look at the 12 different conditions that are part of COPD, and their differences.
Before reading these, keep in mind that they do not happen in all COPDers. But, your risk for developing these is increased when you have COPD. So, this is why it’s important to be aware of the potential. And it's important to be aware of what they are. Here are 12 things COPD doctors are always on the lookout for.
COPD can make it hard to bring up mucus. Mucus buildup in the lungs creates a nice breeding ground for bacteria that may cause pneumonia. So, it’s not uncommon for COPDers to get pneumonia. It’s an infection of the smallest airways and alveoli. It’s when these smallest airways and alveoli become inflamed. The alveoli fill with puss. It’s a common cause of COPD flare-ups. It can make you feel weak, and it can cause your oxygen levels to drop. But, it’s treatable with antibiotics and rest.
It’s when your heart becomes a weak pump. This makes it hard for your heart to pump blood through your lungs. Blood may pool in your lower extremities. This may cause ankle or feet swelling. During flare-ups, fluid can become backed up in your lungs. Like pneumonia, it can cause COPD flare-ups.
Feeling short of breath can cause you to worry. It’s anticipation, such as fear of getting short of breath. It can also be regret that you started smoking or didn’t quit sooner. It’s a real medical condition that is often undiagnosed and untreated. It can even contribute to COPD flare-ups, or make them seem worse. But, it’s treatable once diagnosed. It’s very treatable.
It’s when you feel sad and dejected no matter what you do. Like anxiety, it’s a real medical condition that is often undiagnosed and untreated. And, like anxiety, it may also contribute to flare-ups. But, when diagnosed it is totally treatable.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
It’s when your arteries become narrowed. It’s caused by plaque buildup. This can make it so your heart doesn’t receive enough blood. It can lead to heart failure. It can also cause heart attacks. It’s treatable when diagnosed.
It’s also called high blood pressure. It’s when your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your arteries. When not treated it increases your risk for CAD, heart attacks, and strokes. But, it’s very treatable. And it’s easily diagnosed by a simple blood pressure checks at your doctor’s appointments.
Believe it or not, COPD may also impact your bones. They become weak and fragile. This increases the risk of fractures, even from falls that you’d normally easily recover from. It often goes undiagnosed and untreated. But, like with other COPD comorbidities, there are methods of preventing and treating it.
It’s when your blood glucose (sugar) levels get too high. It may be caused by the disease itself, but it may also be due to the medicines used to treat COPD. It’s a very treatable medical condition once diagnosed.
COPD may cause you to become less active. Inactivity can cause your muscles to atrophy. This is especially true of your muscles used for walking. Inactivity is also linked with an increased risk for developing osteoporosis. So, this is one of the reasons doctors want you to stay physically active, even if it entails simple walking.
As COPD progresses, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your lungs. This can sometimes cause your heart rhythm to change. The most common abnormal rhythm associated with COPD is an irregular rhythm called atrial fibrillation. It can be treated with medicine when diagnosed early enough.
It’s not caused by COPD. But, the risk of developing it is higher in the COPD community than in the non-COPD community. The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. This is also the most common cause of lung cancers. So, this may explain the link. So, this is just something your doctor may want to screen you for.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
It’s acid reflux. It’s when stomach juices work their way back up your esophagus. A common symptom of it is heartburn, which may feel like chest pain. These juices can seep into your lungs to cause flare-ups. Heartburn is easily treatable with treatment.
The common comorbidities
Again, these are common COPD comorbidities. Not everyone with COPD will develop these. Some may get none. Others may get one or more. It’s important for doctors to be aware of the increased risk for developing these conditions. Being aware of these is important, because screening for these may be a regular part of your regular COPD check-ups. It's all in an effort to help you breathe easy and live long with COPD.
Do you know the difference between a COPD exacerbation and lung function decline?
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