Extra Struggles in a COPD World
Last updated: August 2023
You’ve probably heard me say that the leg bones are connected to the knee bone. That’s my body, for sure. To me, it only makes sense that one chronic illness can be affected by another.
There can be and often are extra struggles in a COPD World. Those struggles can affect other chronic health illnesses or diseases that we may have. My recent pulmonary function test showed my COPD as mild. Asthma is the larger pulmonary culprit. Sometimes I don’t know what is what.
One of my favorite sayings is, “We are unique in our disease.” We have different health histories, illnesses, diseases, and medications. Different lives and lifestyles as well.
Back to other struggles that can affect our COPD and lung health.
COPD and allergies
When food is ingested, these go in through the mouth to the stomach and, if you’re allergic, can often affect a person quickly. Not always, though; it depends on how your body reacts.
For example, I’m highly allergic to eggs and many other things. They often require 1-2 EpiPens and a trip to the ER if I were to eat them.
Why are ingested things so serious, and how do they affect the lungs? Depending on the severity, the allergy can cause swelling in the mouth and throat that can close the airway a person can suffocate.
Some allergies react because of touch. For example, someone can hand me a nice warm blanket or sweater. Soon I could experience a breakout and get a nasty rash because I’m allergic to wool.
Similarly, I knew when I carried a raw egg in its shell upstairs to the kitchen, my face swelled up, and it was hard to breathe. I used my EpiPen and went off to the ER. I had never heard of such a thing. I could tell by my wheezing that it was a full-on attack.
Forty years ago, a spider bite took me to the ER. It was a painful bite. I’m thinking spider. Out came the EpiPen.
Then, there are environmental allergies. These are the ones that I struggle with. The worst is dust and smoke. They are everywhere, especially the dust.
Flowers, trees, and grasses, oh my! It must have been our 2nd or 3rd anniversary. My husband gave me flowers that he knew I enjoyed so much. That year, my body said "no." I became so stuffed up that it took my breath away. I enjoyed the balloon, and I’m unsure who he gave the flowers.
Last year we cut down a beautiful tree that was so floral. After years of saying I can’t step outside, we had the tree cut down. There are trees like this all over town, but it didn’t bother me anymore after ours was gone. We haven’t needed a plumber here since, either!
Here is a link John Bottrell wrote on “The Possible Link Between COPD and Allergies.” These can all affect breathing, too.
Experiencing muscle loss
Muscle wasting happens when there is muscle loss. As we age or become inactive, we lose the muscles in our arms and legs.
When this happens, it becomes more difficult to get around, maybe even to get out of bed. That’s why it’s so important to exercise, even to get out and walk. This says it all, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
At physical therapy, my therapist and I were discussing fibromyalgia. We were talking about how not all doctors understand fibro. Some don’t know anything about it. I had been seeing a cardiologist for pulmonary hypertension.
I asked him if fibromyalgia affected the heart. He didn’t know. This was probably ten years or so ago. At my next appointment, six months later, he said the two could have a relationship. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but he researched it.
Talking with my physical therapist, I mentioned that even now, not all doctors seem to support fibromyalgia as an actual physical condition. Some still treat it like it’s only caused by depression. Depression is one of more than a few symptoms, and it’s common to put the patient on antidepressants.
She said that doctors should all be aware of fibromyalgia and what it affects. It does affect the brain receptors. This can trigger pain and muscle spasms in my back, neck, legs, or whichever part of the body.
It can definitely affect breathing. I definitely feel like a prisoner. I have difficulty sitting up in a chair. Standing up for long is hard too. This is hard. I don’t get anything done, and it takes numerous short time to do most things.
Several times a day, I take medications and practice breathing. I get up and walk every ½ hour or so, no matter what. I cook and clean. It’s much less than it used to do.
We are working to strengthen my back and legs. She massages those spasms out. I know that I should have had that second knee replacement done.
Other things can trigger COPD because of pain. Pain can affect posture, breathing, sleep, nutrition, exercise, and more. Stoop over. Do you get pain? Muscle pain? Wait a minute, then, how is your breathing?
Some medications can also affect COPD. This could include over-the-counter medications, herbs, gels, and more. It’s so important that you work with your doctor.
If your doctor recommends pulmonary rehab, do take it. Physical therapy, too. Occupational therapy might also be recommended. It isn’t supposed to be easy, but I’m looking forward to a better life. I hope you find a therapist like mine.
Do you struggle with other health issues that can affect your COPD? What are they? What are you experiencing?
Do you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your COPD?