What is the Connection Between COPD and Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2018
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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.


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Post 4

@wavy58 - That’s great that your grandmother saw through the COPD to her underlying condition. My great-grandmother gave up hope, and she did not make it through her pneumonia.

She was 93 when her symptoms increased drastically. She literally sounded like she was drowning. However, she thought it was her time to go. She had hired a home hospice nurse to see her through this phase.

She told us that she did not want to die in a hospital, but my mother could not stand to see her suffering. She forced her into the car and drove her there, where the doctor determined that she had double pneumonia. At this point, there was nothing they could do for her, so my mother drove her home to go in peace.

Post 3

I guess it’s a good thing that my grandmother is somewhat of a hypochondriac, because her doctor caught her pneumonia early on when she demanded an exam. She has COPD, so he tried to dismiss her symptoms as part of that condition, but she would not relent until he tested her.

Though she commonly coughs up mucus and wheezes, she does not have chest pain on a regular basis. Her cough had worsened, and she said her chest felt tight and achy. She knew that something was not right.

Her doctor placed her on antibiotics. He commended her for her insistence.

Post 2

Because he had COPD, my grandfather did not suspect that he had pneumonia. His condition got so bad that he stopped breathing, and we had to put him on his home ventilator while we waited for an ambulance.

Because he always experienced chest pain and coughed up tons of mucus, he just thought that his COPD was worsening with age. The pneumonia had filled his lungs with so much fluid that he felt like he was drowning. Right before he stopped breathing, he had a choking spell, and he sounded like someone who had risen up from beneath a lake.

Post 1

My uncle has smoked since he was in his twenties, and he is now sixty-five. He developed COPD, and it has made his life miserable. Something as simple as breathing, which should come so naturally, he sees as a luxury that most people take for granted.

Since his immune system is weaker than those of most people, he frequently gets strep throat. Sometimes, he will get it twice a year. He has learned that he must go get antibiotics for it instead of waiting it out, because for him, it will develop into pneumonia.

He found that out the first time he waited a week to see if it would go away. The sore throat only worsened, and the bacteria traveled into his lungs. He had to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator, as well as receive antibiotics through an IV.

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