Copd Complications

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious lung condition in which the bronchi (the smaller airways of the lungs) are obstructed, limiting a patient’s ability to inhale and exhale. As COPD continues to cause patients breathing problems, they begin displaying symptoms that include:

  • non-specific breathing difficulties
  • persistent coughing
  • wheezing.

While genetic disorders (namely alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency) can cause COPD, the primary factor that leads to the development of this condition is smoking. Additionally, continual exposure to asbestos, coal dust and other harsh chemical solvents can also cause people to develop COPD.

As soon as you notice that your breathing is impaired, seek professional medical attention immediately for a proper diagnosis. While you may be displaying the symptoms of some other lung condition, such as asthma, getting the appropriate treatment is key to maintaining your health.

However, if your symptoms are a sign of COPD, then getting treatment and making the necessary lifestyle changes is even more important, as COPD is a serious, life-threatening condition.

In this section, we will outline the various complications associated with COPD. Our articles will also explain the symptoms of COPD so that you know what to look for and how to differentiate COPD from other lung conditions, such as asthma.

COPD Complications

Because COPD is a condition marked by a weakened ability to breathe, those suffering from COPD tend to endure the effects of not getting enough oxygen. Decreased amounts of oxygen levels in the blood strain the body’s other organs, putting a patient at a high risk of developing a number of other, more serious conditions.

Some of the complications associated with COPD include:

  • chronic bronchitis
  • depression, especially when other physical complications are causing COPD patients serious health problems
  • emphysema
  • heart problems
  • hypertension
  • lung cancer
  • respiratory infections.

Getting diagnosed early and following the recommended treatment course is the best way to prevent COPD complications.

Signs and Symptoms of COPD

Although COPD is one of the more serious lung conditions, the most common symptoms of this condition are fairly general. Typical COPD symptoms include:

  • a chronic cough
  • coughing up sputum (mucous)
  • cyanosis, a condition that causes the lips and fingers to turn blue due to lack of oxygen
  • hemoptysis, coughing up sputum with blood in it (This occurs if the blood vessels have been damaged.)
  • shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea
  • wheezing.

In the most severe cases of COPD, patients can suffer from cor pulmonale, a condition in which the right ventricle of the heart is damaged from overworking trying to pump poorly oxygenated blood throughout the body.

To prevent serious complications from permanently affecting your health, see your doctor as soon as you start experiencing the signs and symptoms of COPD.

COPD versus Asthma Symptoms

Although COPD and asthma have similar symptoms, including wheezing and general problems breathing, they are two entirely different lung conditions that have their own unique treatment regimens. Here are some of the factors that differentiate these conditions:

  • Asthma flairs up when a patient comes into contact with an identifiable allergen or trigger. Conversely, COPD causes negative symptoms due to infection, meaning that no recognizable trigger is present.
  • Asthma patients can enjoy normal lung functioning as long as they follow the proper course of treatment. On the other hand, those with COPD generally experience symptoms of their condition on a daily basis, even when following the proper treatment.
  • While asthma typically develops during childhood, COPD tends to affect adults over the age of 40 who also have a history of smoking.

Consult your doctor if you are unsure of whether your symptoms indicate COPD or asthma. Your doctor can outline differences of COPD versus asthma.


Mayo Clinic (2007). COPD Complications. Retrieved September 11, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: