The systemic manifestations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations are recognized, but our understanding of their etiology and importance is lacking largely due to the small number of systematic and longitudinal studies. Most of the systemic manifestations are likely the result of inflammatory processes. Serum biomarkers, such as various cytokines, adipokines, C-reactive protein, and coagulation factors, are elevated during exacerbations. Our understanding of the systemic manifestations can be greatly enhanced if we integrate what is known about the basic science of systemic mediators with the translational science of their role in COPD exacerbations. Many overlapping connections and promising avenues of future research come to light with such a viewpoint.