Are You at Risk for These COPD Comorbidities?

Three Health Problems COPD Sufferers Are at Risk For

COPD ComorbiditiesIf you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, you have elevated risks of developing other illnesses. Three illnesses you are more likely than the rest of the population to be diagnosed with include anemia, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and congestive heart failure (CHF). These illnesses may arise as direct result of your COPD.

What Is Anemia?

Having anemia means you have reduced number of red blood cells, or that your red blood cells possess a decreased capacity for transporting oxygen to the tissues of your body. You may not know you are anemic or you may suffer from multiple symptoms.

Signs of anemia include fatigue, abdominal pain and decreased appetite. You may be pale or develop cracks in the skin around the corners of your lips.

Anemia can cause dizziness, headaches and difficulty concentrating, and you could become confused if it is severe. You might experience pain, numbness, and tingling in your arms or legs, and difficulty swallowing food. You could also become more susceptible to contracting infections.

Anemia is particularly harmful if you suffer from COPD; it can make breathing harder and performing your everyday activities may be more difficult. You may suffer from more complications due to COPD and end up in the hospital more frequently, and if left untreated it can shorten the length and quality of your life.

Why Am I at Risk for Developing Anemia?

There are many reasons why you have a higher than normal chance of developing anemia if you have COPD. This is likely due to a combination of factors, but many remain unclear. Here are some reasons why you may develop anemia:


  • COPD causes inflammation throughout your body. This results in your red blood cells being destroyed at a faster rate than they can be produced by your bone marrow.
  • Iron is needed to carry oxygen to your cells. When you have COPD, iron may accumulate in your tissues rather than circulating in your blood. A lack of iron in your blood means oxygen cannot be transported efficiently.
  • Many individuals who have COPD do not eat well due to income and energy limitations. Dark green leafy vegetables, meat and whole grains are good sources of iron, and many products are even fortified with it.
  • Many medications prescribed to relieve COPD and related disorders put you at risk for developing anemia. Some cardiac drugs, theophylline and supplemental oxygen therapies are among the medications that impact anemia development.

Prevent and Treat Anemia

You can prevent and treat anemia by taking iron supplements and eating a diet rich in iron. Learn what your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are, and report signs of anemia to your health care provider.

Next page: COPD comorbidities and your risk of GERD.

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