Systemic manifestations of COPD

Chest. 2011 Jan;139(1):165-73. doi: 10.1378/chest.10-1252.


COPD is characterized by a poorly reversible airflow limitation resulting from chronic inflammation, mainly due to tobacco exposure. Over the past few years, the understanding of COPD has evolved from it being a disease affecting the lungs to it being a complex, heterogeneous, and generalized disorder in an aging population. Extrapulmonary comorbidities significantly complicate the management and influence the prognosis of patients with COPD. Although certain comorbidities like cardiovascular diseases share some risk factors with COPD, such as cigarette smoking, other frequently observed comorbidities, including musculoskeletal wasting, metabolic syndrome, and depression, cannot be easily attributed to smoking. There is increasing evidence that chronic inflammation is a key factor in COPD and that inflammation might be the common pathway linking these comorbidities and explaining why they typically develop together. Physicians treating patients with COPD need to become aware of these extrapulmonary aspects. Any patient with COPD should be carefully evaluated for comorbidities and the systemic consequences of COPD since they not only influence the prognosis but also have an impact on disease management. The treatment of COPD is no longer focused exclusively on inhaled therapy but is taking on a multidimensional approach, especially because the treatment of the comorbidities might positively affect the course of COPD itself.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors