COPD Comorbidities

COPD Has Numerous Comorbidities

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) includes a few diseases that block airflow and prevent normal breathing. Asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are three forms of COPD. The most likely causes of COPD are tobacco smoking, exposure to indoor air pollutants at home or at work, respiratory infections and genetic factors. In developing countries, indoor air pollutants are more likely to be responsible for the disease than in the United States where smoking is the main cause.

In 2011, COPD was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Some 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. The numbers might be higher because many people with COPD are unaware that they have the disease. COPD is most likely to strike folks between 65 and 74 years old, women, non-Hispanic whites, people with lower incomes, asthmatics, people who did not complete high school, retirees, disabled workers and the unemployed.

Comorbidity occurs when two or more diseases exist at the same time in a person's body. COPD sufferers commonly have comorbidities since the breathing problem has a ripple effect on other organs of the body. People with COPD must remain vigilant when monitoring their health, especially if they have another related condition.

Common COPD comorbidities include the following conditions:

  • DiabetesBecause COPD and diabetes cause inflammation, researchers believe there may be a link between the two. Additionally, some prescription drugs used to treat COPD have been known to worsen hyperglycemia. This causes symptoms of diabetes, including excess thirst, hunger, blurred vision and a frequent need to urinate. Diabetes can be managed by exercising and eating a healthy diet.
  • Heart DiseaseCOPD sufferers routinely have pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) and cor pulmonale (heart failure resulting from lung disease). Rehab routines generally include light exercise like swimming, biking or walking to give the cardiovascular system a boost.
  • OsteoporosisPeople with osteoporosis are at a higher risk for falls resulting in fractures and injured joints. Women with COPD are especially susceptible to hip fractures. In addition to COPD, other risk factors for osteoporosis are a low level of vitamin D, steroid use and smoking. Fractures can be prevented by lifting light weights and doing yoga or Pilates.
  • Lung infectionsLung infections like pneumonia can torment victims of COPD. Pneumonia occurs when the lungs cannot clear foreign objects. These infections can be treated immediately by quitting smoking and lowering one's exposure to lung irritants. Patients are encouraged to get a yearly flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine.
  • Other ComorbiditiesAnxiety, panic attacks, GERD, sleep disorders, anemia, glaucoma, psychological disorders, cardiac disease and cognitive decline are other conditions that are observed in COPD patients. Your primary care physician can advise you on the best course of treatment for you.

All of these comorbidities can kill or injure as much as COPD. In fact, it is difficult to know how many deaths were attributed to these comorbidities were really caused by the original COPD condition. However, there is no doubt that because COPD prevents a healthy flow of air, it has a debilitating effect on the rest of the body.