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COPD and comorbidities

Co-morbidities are common for people with COPD. Comorbidities can make it more difficult for you to manage your COPD and increase your risk of hospitalization.


COPD and comorbidities

Having a comorbidity means that you have more than one disease or condition at the same time. Co-morbidities are common for people with COPD. When organs in the body don't receive enough oxygen because of COPD, it can affect the way they work and put your health at risk.

COPD is associated with many comorbid conditions and most people with COPD have at least one, sometimes more of these conditions at the same time. Sometimes these conditions are related to COPD (a complication of COPD); sometimes these conditions would have occurred whether or not an individual develops COPD.

Comorbidities can make it more difficult for you to manage your COPD. They can also increase your risk of hospitalization and death. It is important that your doctor considers any comorbidities you may have when determining the severity of your COPD and before recommending treatment. 


Common comorbidities for people with COPD:

  • cardiovascular (heart) disease
  • obesity (mild to moderate COPD)
  • osteopenia (loss of bone density)
  • osteoporosis (weakened bones, more likely to fracture)
  • glaucoma and/or cataracts
  • weight loss and malnutrition (severe COPD)
  • peripheral muscle dysfunction (fatigue, weakness, loss of muscle mass)
  • cancer
  • anxiety and depression
  • metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, high cholesterol) and diabetes
  • sleep disturbance


A note about obesity and COPD

Obesity is a risk factor for COPD. COPD can also make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight: if you have COPD, breathing problems make it difficult to exercise. This, in turn, can lead to further weight gain and worsening of COPD symptoms. Both COPD and obesity are risk factors for heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease can be made worse by COPD and obesity.

Obesity is more common in people with mild to moderate COPD. Weight loss can occur in cases of more severe COPD. “COPD wasting” occurs when a person loses muscle mass and may become malnourished. Individuals with severe COPD who are underweight are at greater risk of death than those with COPD who are not underweight.

This section was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Astra Zeneca Canada.