COPD Takes Its Toll on Patients in Multiple Ways

Patients feel a variety of physical symptoms, including some “mysterious” problems, as well as emotional issues.

While COPD patients’ respiratory impairments are well known to providers, a new study indicates that those patients suffer a variety of other physical and even emotional symptoms.

Of the physical symptoms, shortness of breath is the most common, impacting 84 percent of respondents to Health Union’s national survey, "COPD In America 2017," which surveyed more than 2,000 individuals with COPD. 

Other physical issues included fatigue and tiring easily, which 81 percent; being tired or weak when exercising, which 66 percent reported; wheezing/noisy breathing, which impacted 52 percent; and chest tightness, pain or pressure, which also was felt by 52 percent of respondents. Additionally, the shortness of breath and coughing associated with a flare resulted in possible incontinence in 59 percent of the patients.

A somewhat perplexing symptom was the sensation of painful “rib cramping,” which 39 percent of patients told the survey they had experienced within a month. Forty-two percent of those respondents said they had discussed the cramping their doctor, but 69 percent of that portion said they had not received any kind of treatment for the problem.

Keeping that frustration in mind, the survey not surprisingly noted that the emotional effects of COPD can be more overwhelming than apparent. According to the survey, 51 percent of patients reported problems with anxiety or panic disorders, but 40 percent said that their physician was effective in helping them manage that anxiety. Additionally, 24 percent have a mood disorder, such as depression or bi-polar disorder.

“Depression is a real symptom of COPD,” said patient contributor Michelle Vincent. “Finding support groups was a huge boost. I like being able to talk to and get to know people who are going through the same things I am. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. I like being able to give back to the community too.”

Most of the patients surveyed said they did not feel confident they could keep the emotional distress caused by COPD from interfering with their lives. That said, only 19 percent say they are currently involved in a COPD support group.

“The results of this survey clearly illustrate why has been so successful in providing support to people living with COPD,” said Tim Armand, president and co-founder of Health Union. “The world of the COPD patient can seem a lonely, confusing, and isolating place, but here they can find a community that understands, is willing to listen, and provides information they can use in their daily lives.”

More details about the survey are available upon request; email

About the Author

David Kopf is the Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.


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