Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is linked to pneumonia is a variety of ways. First, it may make patients more likely to contract pneumonia than those who do not have the condition. It also makes diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia harder to do since the two have similar symptoms.
Pneumonia is a condition which causes difficulty breathing and a severe cough along with heavy mucus production and infection within the lungs. It is often caused by bacteria, although viruses, parasites, and irritants may also cause pneumonia. COPD is a chronic lung condition which shares many of these symptoms, but it is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. Symptoms include chronic cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and excess mucus.
COPD and pneumonia often occur together because those with COPD are much more likely to contract bacterial pneumonia, the most common type. This form is the result of bacteria normally found in the throat finding their way into the lungs. The most common strain found in bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. There is also a drug resistant form of this strain which is much harder to treat.
The presence of COPD can make treating pneumonia much more difficult. Patients with this condition have lowered immune function, so the body is not as able to fight off harmful bacteria. Inflammation and irritation already in the lungs from COPD can cause healing to take longer. Since COPD and pneumonia are both serious conditions which can make breathing difficult, patients often have to use a breathing machine and oxygen.
Both conditions can make treatment of the other much more difficult. Those who are newly diagnosed with COPD may have fewer complications than those who have a further progressed form of the disease. There are also ways for those with COPD to lower their risk of pneumonia, such as quitting smoking and getting the pneumonia vaccine.
COPD and pneumonia both have similar symptoms, so making a diagnosis of pneumonia early can sometimes be difficult. Patients who have had breathing issues for a while may not notice until pneumonia has become more severe. For this reason, any decrease in breathing function should be reported to a medical professional to rule out infection.
Those with COPD and pneumonia require prompt medical care. Antibiotics are the most common treatment for bacterial pneumonia, and breathing difficulties may be treated using a ventilator or breathing machine. Additional medications may also be used to help open airways and allow for easier breathing.