Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) greatly impacts the lives of its sufferers. Unfortunately, adding to the person’s woes can be the relationship between other medical conditions and COPD. The connection is still somewhat misunderstood by scientists, and therefore continues to be the basis of extensive research, case studies and clinical evaluation.
Medical Conditions and COPD
There are a number conditions that can impact a person with COPD. The following are some of these diseases:
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often present in individuals with COPD. This may be due to the fact that the damaged lungs restrict oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. This makes it difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach the body, causing the heart to work overtime to pump blood. Cor pulmonale, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged due to low amounts of oxygen, may also occur as a result of COPD.
The prevalence of osteoporosis in individuals with COPD is still unknown, but it is speculated that osteoporosis, in some cases, occurs due to the medications used to treat COPD. Also, research suggests that the systemic inflammation caused by COPD throughout the body contributes to weakness of the bones, as well as many other medical conditions.
Quality of life is significantly impacted in patients with COPD. Approximately 40 percent are affected by severe depressive symptoms or clinical depression. More research needs to be conducted to make a conclusion of the correlation between depression and COPD as it relates to possible death. It is often hard for practitioners to discern if depression results due to the impact of COPD on quality of life or other causes.
Like many other serious medical conditions, you may have a greater chance of having co-existing diabetes if you have COPD, but there is no data stating that your COPD is going to cause you to develop diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in people with COPD is often found in younger patients, between 45 and 55, and smokers. Scientists have also found that hyperglycemia (excess sugar in the blood) is linked to impaired lung function.
Heart disease is the second greatest cause of death in people with COPD, and can occur as the result of high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. Make sure to get your cholesterol and blood pressure levels consistently checked. The exact correlation between high cholesterol and COPD is unknown. Promising results from a variety of case studies suggest that statins, prescribed to people with high cholesterol, can also reduce inflammation in the lungs.
If you have COPD, you’re at an increased risk of heart failure. This is because damage in the lungs does not allow enough oxygen to reach the heart. As mentioned above, the heart must then work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. This overuse eventually leads to heart damage and eventually heart failure.
It is an established fact that individuals with COPD are at an increased risk for the development of primary lung cancer. This increased risk is directly correlated with the systemic inflammation caused by the disease. If you have COPD and lung cancer, surgical intervention may be needed to prolong and improve longevity of life.
Many of these medical conditions, also referred to as comorbidities, aren’t necessarily caused by a COPD diagnosis, but tend to be more common in individuals with COPD. In one large case study, with over 1,500 participants, persons with COPD reported, on average, having four other conditions. Unfortunately, the presence of other medical conditions contributes to the likelihood of death in individuals with COPD, and other forms of lung disease, and should be taken very seriously.
Make sure to tell your doctor or pulmonologist if you’re having symptoms of any of the medical conditions listed above. If you’re taking any medications for these conditions, it is also essential for you to go over each of the presciptions with your pulmonologist to limit any medication interactions.
Why are These Serious Medical Conditions more common in People with COPD?
Physicians aren’t sure why certain medical conditions are associated with COPD, but it is suspected that there may be a direct correlation with the physiological processes that happen to the body during aging. Many individuals with COPD also have a history of cigarette smoking, which is known to lead to many of the conditions listed above, and others including stroke, cataracts, ulcers and erectile dysfunction. Although former smokers with COPD are at a higher risk of developing these serious medical conditions, non-smokers also have a significant risk.
Unfortunately, many of the medications used to treat COPD also come with a variety of unwanted side effects and health risks.
- Inhaled corticosteroids – may cause cataracts, and put you at risk for the development of osteoporosis.
- Intravenous steroids – may also cause osteoporosis as well as diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes and muscle weakness.
- Bronchodilators – are known to cause a rapid heart rate.
- Inhaled anticholinergics – may cause elevated pressure in the eyes, as well as cardiac problems, and bladder issues.
These are just some of the popular medications used to treat COPD that may lead to the presence of other health conditions. If you have any questions or concerns about the side effects of your medications, make sure to speak with your doctor. Often, the benefits of your medication will outweigh the risk of these side effects.
Take Care of Yourself and Use Good Judgment
You know your body better than anyone else. If a medication is having a negative effect on your body, speak to your doctor about an alternative. Make sure to take care of yourself, many of these medical conditions can also occur due to poor diet and lack of exercise. By leading a healthy lifestyle you can not only reduce your COPD symptoms, you can also reduce the risk of developing a serious medical condition. If you feel as if your quality of life has been impacted significantly, you do have other options. Stem cell treatments have been known to vastly improve the quality of life of COPD and lung disease patients.