A woman riding a unicycle juggling on a tight rope with an oxygen tank

Managing COPD With Other Illnesses

Along with COPD, I have several other diseases, one of which is hypothyroidism. This is more commonly known as an underactive thyroid. I also have Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. As I have recently discovered, managing multiple diseases is like performing a high wire act while juggling.

Managing diabetes

I had considered COPD the most debilitating of the four diseases and that is where I have placed most of my energy in managing. I was able to get diabetes under control rather quickly, learning what worked and what didn't to keep my blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. Keeping to a moderately low carbohydrate diet helps with diabetes, but also helps me breathe better. When I have to take prednisone because of a COPD exacerbation, the diabetes is thrown out of control. My blood sugar levels are extremely high. It is necessary to check them numerous times daily and take extra insulin. During this time, it is important that equal attention be paid to both diseases.

I am on medication for blood pressure, and that too is under control. I wasn't diagnosed with a thyroid disease until I was hospitalized for a couple of months. Placed into a medically induced coma, I woke up not only with COPD but with a thyroid illness. Surprise!

When it falls apart

I did a little bit of research on hypothyroidism and realized this was the cause of many symptoms. I had extreme fatigue, was cold all the time, and had thinning hair. Once my medicine started working, these symptoms went away. I know I get tested quarterly but my results are always good so I have not given it another thought. That changed recently and it has caused complete chaos with all my diseases.

My blood tests fell behind because of the pandemic. That was the first problem. I began having heart palpitations and saw my doctor. After wearing a Holter monitor for forty-eight hours, it was determined I have Premature Ventricular Contractions, also known as PVCs. This is an extra beat in the heart rhythm. It is not serious and I was given a beta-blocker. That worked well for a couple of months, then suddenly my heart rate kept dropping. I was having constant palpitations and shortness of breath. Eventually, it was discovered that all my thyroid hormones were out of balance. My medication needed increasing and I was taken off the beta-blocker.

After discussions with my doctor and joining a support group for thyroid dysfunction, I discovered how debilitating this disease can be if the hormone replacement medications are not working properly. It will take six weeks to find out if they are, but the symptoms are gradually decreasing.

A lesson learned

When managing a disease like COPD, it is easy to put everything else in the background. It is also easy to think that your disease is progressing when it might be something else. I learned the hard way how important it is to understand each and every illness I have. This took six months to find an answer and a great deal of anxiety.

Managing multiple illnesses isn't always easy. It takes knowledge of each one, knowing how they affect each other, and tracking symptoms in a journal. Only then will I know if something is going wrong and I can talk to my doctor so we can work on it quickly. This has truly been a learning experience.

I am learning it is difficult to manage several diseases that not only have some similar symptoms but have such an effect on each other. Do you have any illnesses other than COPD? If so, how do you manage them together? Do you have tips to share?

What helps you manage your COPD? Do you rely solely on your doctor for information or look elsewhere? Do you believe attitude makes a difference in living life with this disease? Are you a Is That All There Is type person or Let's Keep Dancing Person? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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