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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Personality changes in emphysema sufferers

12/18/2008

Question:

My significant other has had emphysema for over 10 years and currently has 25% lung capacity and is starting the lung transplant process at UCLA. We have lived together for over 5 years and in the past year he has become increasing short-tempered and critical. He gets angry very easily and I would like to know if this is a side effect of the disease. Can the lack of oxygen to the body and brain effect that type of change to a person?

Answer:

COPD impacts many systems in the body. If your significant other is chronically hypoxemic (low oxygen levels), this can lead to personality changes. However, there is a higher incidence of depression and anxiety in persons with COPD than in the general population and this may be what is happening also.

I would encourage you to talk with your significant other's physician regarding your concerns. An evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist may be indicated. This should also be discussed with the lung transplant program coordinators and physicians. If it is determined that your significant other requires oxygen, please strongly encourage its use. Oxygen therapy has been shown to improve survival when it is indicated.

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Response by:

Gerene S Bauldoff, RN, PhD, FCCP, FAACVPR, FAAN Gerene S Bauldoff, RN, PhD, FCCP, FAACVPR, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University