Recognizing COPD Complications

COPD complications can be serious.

To help you recognize a COPD problem before it turns dangerous.

If you have COPD, how do you know when you’re not merely in discomfort,

but in danger? Here are some danger signs that you shouldn’t ignore:

COPD flare-ups and infections.
If you feel increasing shortness of breath, more mucus in your throat, and
greater wheezing and coughing than usual, you may be experiencing a COPD
flare-up — something you need to share with your doctor. You should also call if
the material you cough up changes colour or if you have a fever lasting more
than 24 hours. COPD flare-ups often result from a bronchial infection, which
may be treatable with antibiotics, or from breathing fumes, dust, or pollution.

COPD and heart failure.
Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet is a warning that someone with COPD
may have developed a type of heart failure called cor pulmonale, or right
ventricular failure. Because COPD makes the heart work harder (particularly
the right side, which pumps blood into the lungs), that side of the heart may
enlarge. As the blood pressure in the lungs rises, the right ventricle contracts
less efficiently. Cor pulmonale increases the risk that a blood clot will
develop in a leg vein.

COPD and pneumothorax.
A hole that develops in the lung, allowing air to escape into the space
between the lung and the chest wall, pneumothorax causes the lung to collapse,
leading to severe shortness of breath. People with COPD have an increased risk
of pneumothorax, because changes in their lungs cause air to be emptied
unevenly from the lungs. Symptoms of pneumothorax include: sudden shortness
of breath; painful breathing; sharp chest pain, often on one side; chest tight
ness; dry, hacking cough; rapid heart rate.

COPD and too many red blood cells.
Weakness, headaches, fatigue, and light-headedness may indicate the presence
of an uncommon condition known as secondary polycythemia, which arises when

there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood. Someone who develops polycythemia may have visual disturbances such as blind spots, distorted vision, and flashes

of light. Gums and small cuts may bleed, and there may be a burning sensation
in the hands and the feet.

Bottom line advice on COPD:
If the problem is a flare-up of COPD, quick treatment can prevent serious
breathing problems that might send you to the hospital. Call your doctor
immediately if:
-You have COPD and you have shortness of breath or wheezing that is rapidly
– You have COPD and are coughing more deeply or more frequently, especially

if you have an increase in mucus or a change in the colour of the mucus you cough up.
– You have COPD and cough up blood.
– You have COPD and have increased swelling in your legs or abdomen.
– You have COPD and have a fever over 100°F.
– You have COPD and have severe chest pain.
– You have COPD and develop flu-like symptoms.
– You have COPD and feel that your medication is not working as well as

Scroll to Top