COPD exacerbation (flare-up). COPD exacerbation happens when your symptoms suddenly get more severe. This can last for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. As the disease progresses, flare-ups can become more frequent and severe. You may need to take antibiotics, steroid medications, or even be hospitalized due to the severity of your symptoms.
Collapsed lung (pneumothorax). This is rare but serious complication. It happens when air gets into your chest cavity and puts pressure on the lung, causing it to collapse. A collapsed lung can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. If you have a collapsed lung, you may experience sharp chest pain and very sudden shortness of breath.
Heart problems. Having COPD also increases your risk for congestive heart failure and heart damage. This is because your heart has to work so much harder to make up for the low oxygen levels in your blood. You are also at greater risk for atrial fibrillation, a condition in which your heart beats irregularly and increases your risk for blood clots.
Lung cancer. COPD increases your risk of developing lung cancer.
Respiratory infections. If you have COPD, you are more likely to experience colds, the flu, or pneumonia. You are also more likely to experience complications from these infections, like hospitalization and potentially more lung damage. Likewise, you are more likely to experience complications and hospitalization if you get infected with SARS-CoV-19, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Reduced quality of life. COPD makes it hard for you to breathe and engage in normal, physical activities. It can also increase your risk for anxiety and depression. All of these can reduce your quality of life.