Prevention is a must. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines to get. Some are for pneumonia, while others target illnesses that can make you more prone to pneumonia, like the flu and whooping cough. Wash your hands often to avoid picking up these germs.
Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)
COPD can damage lung tissue. And if air leaks into the space between a lung and your chest wall, that lung can collapse like a deflated balloon. You might have sudden shortness of breath, feel sharp chest pain or tightness, or have a hacking cough.
Poor Gas Exchange
Blood carries oxygen to cells throughout your body and carbon dioxide away from them. But because you're not breathing in and out fully, you may have less oxygen than you need or more carbon dioxide than you want in your blood. Either of these may be why you have shortness of breath. A high carbon dioxide level can also give you a headache and make you woozy.
A simple device called an oximeter that goes on your fingertip can check your oxygen level. Extra oxygen should help get that level up to where your doctor recommends. But if you're using oxygen, keep the flow within the range your doctor prescribed. Sometimes too much oxygen can cause serious problems.
Low blood oxygen levels can lead to narrowed arteries and higher blood pressure in the blood vessels that go from your heart to your lungs as well as within your lungs. That can put a lot of stress on your heart, making it work harder than normal. It could become heart failure, a permanent condition where your heart is too weak to do its job well.
Being active helps keep your blood moving so you're less likely to get serious blood clots that can travel to your lungs.
Thinning Bones (Osteoporosis)
It's common for people with COPD to get osteoporosis. They've often been smokers, they take steroids, it's hard for them to get enough bone-strengthening exercise, and they can be low on bone-building vitamin D.
Brittle, weak bones break more easily. And a break will sideline you from activity.
Weak Arms and Legs
Some of the same things that cause bone loss can cause muscle loss, too. Those weak muscles make it even harder to do everyday activities.
When you're overweight, your lungs have to work harder. This can make your COPD worse and complications more likely.
As COPD progresses, you might have the opposite problem -- severe weight loss, sometimes because you're too short of breath to eat enough. Being underweight can also worsen symptoms and make you more vulnerable to bone thinning and infections.
COPD symptoms can wake you up during the night, which will leave you tired during the day. Even more serious is sleep apnea, a condition when you have repeated pauses in breathing while you sleep. The pauses, along with low oxygen levels, could make your COPD worse.
Many people with COPD have diabetes. The damage caused by one can make the other more likely.
Exercise and quitting smoking help both conditions. Also make sure that all of your doctors know what the others have prescribed.
Depression and Anxiety
Work with your doctor or a therapist on self-care skills, too. People who problem-solve do better physically and emotionally than people who ignore health issues.