The Connection Between COPD and Alcoholism

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases impacting breathing. This may include chronic bronchitis or emphysema. These problems result from a person’s lung capacity being reduced along with inflammation or damage to lung tissues. People with COPD experience excessive mucus production, making breathing difficult. People who smoke are most likely to develop COPD but people who smoke may also drink. It helps to understand the relationship between COPD and alcoholism, along with smoking, to know how to recognize symptoms and treat.

Risk Factors for COPD

Smoking is almost always the primary cause of COPD. Nearly 90 percent of COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans with the disease has never smoked. Other causes also contribute to the condition, including:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to toxins or pollutants in the environment
  • Exposure to fumes from chemicals or fuel
  • Certain genetic disorders

Alcohol and COPD Challenges

For people experiencing trouble breathing and drink alcohol regularly, it might help to see a doctor. Anytime there is trouble breathing, it is a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as COPD. In people with asthma, alcohol can trigger an asthma attack. Anytime alcohol is drunk and breathing problems develop, there may be rare allergy to ingredients found in the alcohol itself. Otherwise, it may be related to COPD. Early and worsening signs of trouble include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficult regaining breath during physical activity
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Whistling or wheezing sound when breathing
  • Blue or gray fingernails (sign of low blood oxygen)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty catching breath or talking, even when not doing anything physical
  • Changes to mental alertness
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling in ankles and feet

When to See Physician

If it has been awhile since being to the doctor or symptoms develop, make an appointment for a check-up. Symptoms may not be obvious until the condition is advanced. That means a diagnosis and treatment are vital. Diagnosing COPD requires a physical exam, a review of medical history, and some tests. Let the doctor know how long ago you quit and how much you smoked or drank in the past. Any rare issues in the family history should be discussed including COPD, asthma, lung cancer, or other issues. These tests will be included:

  • Lung function test to measure how much air can be inhaled and exhaled
  • CT scan to rule out possible other issues going on
  • Chest x-ray to detect possible causes, including pneumonia or other conditions
  • Arterial blood gas analysis to measure how well the lungs are taking oxygen

Giving Up Unhealthy Behaviors

It is challenging to give up unhealthy behaviors at first but it worth health and well-being to find ways of giving up unhealthy behaviors that can worsen over time.

  • Learn more about how to quit smoking and drinking. Explore ways to get treatment for recovery
  • Partner up by getting support from another person trying to quit for accountability. Explain the plan and decide on steps of intervention for slip ups or if additional help is needed
  • There is no time like the present to quit. Just pick a day to quit smoking and mark it on the calendar. Make note of it, throw away all your paraphernalia. Remove any alcohol if you are able. If that is not possible perhaps you need help for addiction and a substance use disorder

Don’t give up too easily on this endeavor. If you are not able to quit right away that is ok. You can always quit again but it may help to find accountability and treatment.

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare knows that lifetime sobriety, health, and wellness, are completely possible. Each of our treatment programs offer the opportunity for holistic healing utilizing an integrative approach for the recovery of mind, body, and spirit. You can recover. You will recover. Call us today for more information: 844-560-7269