Developing an illness as serious as pneumonia can be quite frightening, and even more so when you suffer from a debilitating lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Your struggle to properly breathe has intensified to an unparalleled degree. But what exactly does it mean to have both COPD and pneumonia at the same time? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 12.7 million Americans have this progressive form of lung disease, which encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking is the number one cause of COPD, followed by environmental pollution. Undiagnosed and not properly treated, COPD prevents the proper exchange of air flow in the lungs, leading to deteriorating health.
Pneumonia is caused by lung infection. Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, high fever and increasing difficulty breathing. Imagine a COPD sufferer coming down with pneumonia, and it’s easy to see how dangerous this combination of ailments can be.
Why You Should Worry about COPD and Pneumonia?
For both COPD and pneumonia, it is important to see a physician for an accurate diagnosis. COPD places a person at greater risk for contracting pneumonia. The longer either condition is left untreated, the worse the prognosis, and the shorter a person’s life expectancy may become. Pneumonia can be treated. However, when COPD is present, pneumonia is significantly more serious, with an increased chance for life-threatening respiratory failure. A study published in the American Family Physician Journal showed that some patients hospitalized following COPD flare-ups were already infected with Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae, two types of bacteria that cause pneumonia. Does such person have true pneumonia or is it really a COPD flare-up? The symptoms for both tend to overlap, including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and productive cough. It is therefore often difficult to tell which ailment is the culprit, especially when the individual has late-stage COPD. No matter the cause of the COPD trigger, it is vitally important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Is Prevention of Pneumonia Possible?
If you have COPD, protect yourself against pneumonia. Take a pneumonia vaccine, which can ward off various strains of pneumonia for about 5 years. After 5 years, you might need a booster vaccine. Other tips to ward off pneumonia when you have COPD focus on common-sense healthy habits:
- Quit smoking if you have not done so already.
- Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly.
- Take any COPD medication as prescribed by your physician.
- Get a yearly flu vaccine.