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COPD Flare-Ups: What Causes Them?

Posted by Caleb Umstead on Jun 6, 2014 6:00:00 AM

What Causes COPD Flare-Ups

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will have flare-ups, also known as, exacerbations from time to time. A COPD exacerbation, or flare-up, is when your COPD symptoms have an abrupt increase in severity. Breathing may become increasingly harder, you may have more mucus production, more coughing, but each case is different. Sometimes the cause for a flare-up is unknown or it could be a combination of a couple of things, which is why we will be talking about the most known causes for COPD flare-ups.

The Typical COPD Exacerbation Triggers

As a patient diagnosed with COPD you already know that your lungs have been damaged in irreversible ways. This is why pollutants and climate changes that are in other words "harmless" to non-COPD patients can cause nothing but trouble for you. Things like:

  • Air Pollutants
  • Perfumes/Colognes
  • Air Fresheners
  • Pollen
  • Chemical Based Cleaning Supplies
  • Climate Change
  • Temperature Change

Those can all affect how you feel and can be the cause of your COPD flare-ups. The reason being is, the already chronically inflamed bronchial tubes (air passages) become inflamed even further, which then causes the bronchial tubes to spasm or constrict. When this occurs air flow becomes even more limited and becomes trapped because the airflow is being blocked by the inflamed passageways thus making breathing even more difficult. Oxygen therapy is just one of the many options in treating and reducing the symptoms felt from a flare-up, by supplementing the lack of oxygen present in the body. If you are experiencing an influx of flare-ups or are starting to not be able to deal with the symptoms, speak with your doctor about prescribing you additional medication.

Watch Out for Lung Infections

Lung infections are the number one cause for exacerbations, if a patient has a bacterial infection those are usually combated with antibiotics but more than likely the infection is caused by a virus. Infections also leave you vulnerable to pneumonia which can do further damage to the lungs and make breathing even more difficult. Patients with chronic bronchitis are at an especially heightened risk of lung infections due to excess secretions being trapped in the lungs leaving room for viruses and bacteria to manifest.

Protect your Heart

Heart failure is seen especially often in patients where the disease has progressed and is towards the ending stages of COPD. Over time the heart begins to wear out from delivering pumped blood through the diseased lungs, once the heart begins to tire of all the extra hard work then a backup of blood begins to form in the lungs making breathing even more difficult. The reason for blood buildup in the lungs is simply because the heart cannot keep up with the bodies demand.

There are also causes for your COPD flare-ups that cannot be attributed to a specific trigger, or it can be attributed to a couple of the reasons previously stated. Often times doctors will fight the unknown causes with medications and see what works best, or your doctor will assume you have all three problems and treat them each. Frequently when this occurs the problem is never truly diagnosed or attributed to a certain flare-up. 

COPD exacerbations are not to be taken lightly. Stay ahead of the game and download our free e-book with 13 simple and actionable strategies you can use to prevent and manage COPD exacerbations.

COPD Exacerbation E-Book

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Topics: COPD, COPD Treatment, COPD Exacerbations

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