COPD and Other Diseases

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Inspiration COPD Newsletter

When you or the person you care for experiences COPD symptoms, it’s good to know what might be a symptom of COPD and what might be symptom of a different condition.

Below is information about conditions that have similar symptoms to COPD. People living with COPD may also have these conditions, often called comorbidities. It is important to talk to your health care provider about these other conditions, because they may affect the management of COPD.

What are Comorbidities?

Comorbidities are two or more diseases existing at the same time in the body. It is common for people with COPD to develop comorbidity because COPD makes it hard for organs to get enough oxygen, which can prevent them from working properly.

COPD and Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is caused by damage in the lungs that leads to chronic infections in the airways, usually from bacteria. This can result in airway inflammation. People who develop bronchiectasis may have symptoms that can look like a COPD flare-up. These include:

  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Coughing up mucus expelled from lungs

If you or the person you care for is experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment to see your health care provider. A blood test or other tests are likely to be performed to determine if you or the person you care for is experiencing bronchiectasis along with COPD. Your health care provider will also be able to select the best treatment, which may include antibiotics or mucus-thinning medication. Other treatments include chest therapy to help clear mucus from lungs and medications to treat inflammation.

Smoking can limit the effects of treating bronchiectasis. Talk with your health care provider about how to quit smoking and visit our Quit Smoking section for more information.


Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is also called acid reflux or heartburn. It occurs when stomach acid or even stomach contents wash back into the esophagus. A symptom that overlaps with COPD includes coughing.

GERD is a common condition that can affect anyone occasionally without any harm. However, for people living with COPD, GERD can actually cause COPD flare-ups and trigger asthma symptoms.

It’s important for people living with COPD to treat any recurring GERD. While mild forms of GERD can be treated with over the counter medications, some people need stronger medication. Consult with your health care provider to properly diagnose and treat the person you care for.

COPD and Heart Failure

The heart and lungs work together to give organs the oxygen they need to work normally. COPD makes it more difficult for the lungs to collect oxygen and get it to the bloodstream. The heart is forced to work harder to keep the rest of the body properly nourished. This extra stress on the heart puts someone with COPD at a greater risk for heart disease.

Exercises in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can help your heart stay healthy.

COPD and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens a person’s bones, which puts a person at a greater risk for falls and fractures. Some people living with COPD have other risk factors related to osteoporosis including smoking, low vitamin D levels and use of steroids for treatment. Women with COPD and osteoporosis are at a greater risk for hip fractures.

Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises can help to prevent fractures.

COPD and Diabetes

Research shows that there might be a connection between diabetes and COPD because both conditions involve inflammation. Some of the medications used to treat COPD may worsen high blood sugar, which results in symptoms of diabetes such as blurry vision, frequent urination, thirst and hunger.

Following a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can help to prevent or manage diabetes.

COPD and Lung Infections

People living with COPD may experience frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia.

Quitting smoking and reducing exposure to lung irritants instantly decrease the risk of these types of infections. It is also recommended that all people who have COPD have a pneumonia vaccination as well as an annual flu shot to reduce their risk of infection.

COPD and Other Conditions

Other conditions that may occur with COPD include:

  • Anemia
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive decline
  • Glaucoma
  • Sleep disorders

If you experience any of these conditions or have questions about other symptoms, speak with your health care provider about possible prevention and treatment options.


For additional resources, visit the COPD section of our Library.