COPD exacerbation: causes, symptoms, and treatment
by Susanne Clemenz
If you have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and notice a sudden worsening of symptoms, you may be experiencing COPD exacerbation, and it's important to call your pulmonologist immediately. Learn why failure to seek help may lead to a deterioration in your overall health.
People who have COPD may experience sudden or elevated symptoms (exacerbation) that represent a worsening of the disease. These may be temporary symptoms with specific causes that can be treated, or they may represent progress of the disease. Either way, COPD exacerbation requires immediate care to prevent lung failure. If you have COPD and notice exacerbations, don't wait to see if the symptoms get worse or if they'll go away. Call 911 or your pulmonologist, regardless of the time of day or night.
Symptoms of COPD Exacerbation
A noticeable increase in shortness of breath may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath. A sense of breathlessness or not getting enough air
- Noisy Breathing. Wheezing, whistling, gurgling or rattling sounds
- Increased Anxiety. A feeling of not getting enough oxygen, which can lead to feelings of panic
- Chest Breathing. Breathing from your chest, instead of your abdomen
- Cough. More frequent or severe
- Changes in Skin or Nail Color. A bluish tint around the lips and/or blue or purple nails
- Difficulty Sleeping or No Interest in Eating. Symptoms that may interference with eating or sleeping
Causes of COPD Exacerbation
Causes include, but are not limited to the following:
- Respiratory infections
- Indoor or outdoor air pollution
- A change in temperature
- A buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood
- Smoking or being around smoke, including from barbecues or fireplaces
- Heart disease
- Increased anxiety or a feeling of panic
It's not advisable to "weather out" such symptoms or "be tough." Failure to immediately address COPD exacerbation may lead to a worsening of your overall condition. In fact, it's important to slowly buildup to your pre-exacerbation condition after symptoms treatment. Antibiotics and oral steroids may treat the symptoms of COPD exacerbation, and your doctor can instruct you how to use them in the event you feel symptoms.