Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Pneumonia
What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a debilitating lung disease that makes it difficult for sufferers to breathe. It is characterized by a restriction of airflow in and out of the lungs, thus causing difficulty breathing. As a result, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease need supplemental oxygen in order to participate in daily activities. Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease increases your susceptibility to life-threatening complications such as cardiovascular conditions and pneumonia.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is debilitating lung inflammation caused by over 30 types of infections. When someone has pneumonia, the air sacs in the lungs often fill with pus and become solid making it difficult to breathe. This results in a severe lack of oxygen to the body. If the pneumonia is caught early on and the affected individual is in relatively good health, there are typically minimal complications for treatment. But when an individual has another condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can become much harder to combat the pneumonia infection.
The Link Between Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Pneumonia
Individuals diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have a significantly higher risk for contracting pneumonia or other respiratory infections. This is because the individual’s lungs are already weakened from his or her progressive lung condition. The susceptibility for contracting pneumonia is often increased due to a suppressed immune system and an inability to filter viruses and bacteria out of the air. Once an individual has pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, there is an increased risk of life-threatening exacerbations and respiratory failure. These two conditions—pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease— trigger a vicious cycle in which one greatly impacts the other, thus making symptoms increasingly severe.
Comparing Life with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Life with Pneumonia
When an individual has a chronic lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can be almost impossible to tell if the symptoms are simply the progressive disease itself or an additional lung condition like pneumonia as the symptoms are quite similar. This often leads to an under-diagnosis of pneumonia for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Common symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, excess sputum production and chest tightness. Pneumonia can cause all of these symptoms plus a high fever, chills and shaking, and chest pain when coughing or breathing.
When an individual is suffering from both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, they often demonstrate an inability to speak clearly due to a lack of oxygen, oddly colored mucus (including green, tan, yellow or bloody), a high fever and an inability to get relief from prescribed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease medications.
Seeking Treatment Immediately
Whether you are suffering from a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease flare-up or a new case of pneumonia, it is essential that you get help immediately. The sooner you can get treatment and get your symptoms under control, the less your lungs will be damaged. The inflammation resulting from pneumonia can further limit your airflow and cause irreversible damage to your already weakened lung tissue. By leaving your symptoms unchecked, you increase your risk for acute respiratory failure. This is the leading concern when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sufferers develop pneumonia.
When your body is deprived of the oxygen it so desperately needs, it goes into crisis mode. This increases your risk for a variety of other life-threatening complications such as pulmonary hypertension, cardiovascular issues including heart attack and stroke, irreversible brain damage and even death.
Prevention is Key
When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it is possible to help protect yourself against pneumonia. By getting an annual pneumonia vaccine, you can ward off various strains of pneumonia. Other tips to combat pneumonia when you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease focus on imperative lifestyle modifications:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly.
- Take any chronic obstructive pulmonary disease medication as prescribed by your physician.
- Get a yearly flu vaccine.