Health Risks Associated With COPD
Last updated: July 2023
Editor's note: If you have concerns about COPD or associated comorbidities, always consult your healthcare provider.
I am sure most of us with COPD have heard that, according to WHO, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Not only is COPD harmful to us, but it also can cause some other health risks that many of us deal with every day.1
Before I get on to the various comorbidities that COPD can cause, I would like those of you who have just recently been diagnosed to know just exactly what COPD is. Some have said that they don't have COPD; they have emphysema. Some say I have bronchitis and not COPD, but some don't realize that COPD is one umbrella term for progressive lung diseases.
COPD is a condition involving constriction of the airways and difficulty or discomfort in breathing, so it is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult. The most common COPD conditions are emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma.2
COPD and other health issues
While reading about sleep disorders on the Sleep Foundation website, I found that sleep disorders can affect breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels during sleep. COPD frequently coincides with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), a condition characterized by gaps in breathing during sleep.3
Sleep apnea can cause frequent and sudden nighttime awakenings, as well as drops and blood oxygen levels accompanying spikes and carbon dioxide levels.
According to the Lung Institute, GERD is a chronic condition in which the valve of the bottom of the esophagus weakens, allowing stomach acid to escape the stomach and burn the esophagus lining.4
COPD can also cause osteoporosis because of common risk factors such as smoking, inactivity, vitamin D deficiency, and corticosteroids enhancing ongoing bone destruction.5
People with COPD may also experience weakness in their arms and legs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, COPD increases the risk for the development of lung cancer, even after the effects of cigarette smoking are excluded.6
Some problems that COPD can cause in the heart are right-sided heart failure. This can be a permanent condition in which your heart is too weak to do its job, which is caused by the low oxygen levels that go from your heart to your lungs. Atrial fibrillation is another thing caused by damaged nerve fibers that connect to the heart and cause unusual heartbeats called arrhythmia.7
Many of us differ in our weight issues. Some of us are overweight from being unable to exercise and not moving around as much as we used to. Still, others lose weight and can't keep it on because of burning so many calories just trying to breathe and not having an appetite.
I share these not to scare any of you but for you to be aware and try to help yourself stay as healthy as possible with your COPD. Help yourself by learning all you can about your health. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor the hard questions.
Do you have questions or like to add anything to the list? Be sure to share with us in the comments below.
Do you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your COPD?