Connection Between Thyroid Disease and COPD?

January 11th, 2012 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Doctor,

I am 56 yrs old and was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema five months ago. Recently, I was experiencing a bronchitis episode at the same time carpet was being installed in my basement. I suffered a severe respiratory reaction from the carpet glue they were using, which resulted in 3 months of home oxygen, prednisone and an inhaler. When I was first diagnosed, I was given Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs), which revealed severe emphysema with an FEV 1 of 34%.  I began a pulmonary rehabilitation program hoping to improve my poor prognosis and prevent future exacerbations. I must also admit to having a 30 year history of smoking one half pack a day, which I immediately quit during my severe respiratory distress.

Recently, I have also been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and I am no longer able to continue with pulmonary rehab due to muscle pain and weakness, along with increased shortness of breath. I had been walking 1.5 miles on the treadmill 3 times a week without oxygen and only slight dyspnea. My questions to you are as follows:

Have you had any experience with any other patients having severe respiratory distress, being diagnosed with COPD/emphysema after inhalation of an environmental toxin, such as carpet glue?


Is there any connection between the severity of my emphysema, poor lung function, and the severity of my untreated hypothyroid? Since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism I have experienced increased shortness of breath, both of which are symptoms of COPD and hypothyroidism so I really don’t know if my COPD is getting worse or not. My endocrinologist feels that my emphysema is not as severe as thought to be and that I will see an improvement in my PFT’s once my thyroid condition has been corrected. My pulmonary doctor doesn’t believe that there is any connection between thyroid disease and emphysema.

–Connection Between COPD and Thyroid Disease?

Dear Connection,

Your letter asks many questions, some of which I couldn’t answer without further information. I will try to answer what I can based on the information in your letter. First of all, exposure to carpet glue wouldn’t cause emphysema but could certainly cause worsening of symptoms. Hypothyroidism does not cause emphysema but the weakness it can cause can make breathing worse and certainly if it limits ability to exercise it will limit therapy of COPD.

As soon as possible you need to get back into regular exercise program again and build up your exercise tolerance. Was the carpeting removed from basement? Sometimes that can help along with use of HEPA air purifiers and dehumidifiers in basement. You should also take this opportunity to review all your medications with your lung specialist and make sure you COPD regimen has been maximized.

Hope this helps, and thanks for writing,

The COPD Doc

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

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  1. search says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Connection Between Thyroid Disease and COPD?
    | COPD Foundation Blog < Loved it!

  2. Susie says:

    When my mother was diagnosed with COPD, it was just a month later, that she was diagnosed with thyroid issues as well. I really do find this a strange coincidence. I guess it is time for me to get mine tested!

  3. Barbara King says:

    Wow! I am very impressed with this web site. I had no idea about some of these issues. I am stage 3 COPD, not on oxygen (although have requested it). I stopped taking medication for high cholesterol 5 months ago due to the side effects,i.e. severe muscle spasams, cramps, weakness. Now my primary care doctor tells me my cholesterol is too high again and that my thyroid is kind of “wacky”. I’ve read that the meds to treat the thyroid generally cause the same muscle problems as the Crestor and will increase my shortness of breath. Is this true?

  4. sara says:

    I have the same problem I have been through rehab for breathing then my throid they put me on meds my breathing got worse within 3 weeks off the meds not till my doctor get back on Monday . I agree with Jane the throid meds are making my brathing worse got any ideas?

  5. Jane Christensen says:

    My mom has had COPD for about 10 yrs now. She was then told that her thyroid wasn’t working properly. They zapped her thyroid about 4 yrs ago and for the first few months she was great. She could walk up hills and stairs with little difficulty. However, she has become worse. They have been changing her medication over the last 3 yrs to no avail. She quit smoking at least 8 yrs ago. She is trying to explain to her thyroid doctor and her respiratory doctor that she doesn’t feel that it is only the COPD, because that only acts up when there are irritants in the air or too much humidity, etc… She is trying to tell them that her breathing difficulties are related to her thyroid function. Her breathing problems seem to go up and down quite dramatically even when there are no reasons for it to affect the COPD. When she tries to tell each of the specialist about it they both say that they know nothing about the other. Doesn’t thyroid function affect breathing? Please help, she is very frustrated.
    Jane C

    • Katelyn Turner says:

      Hi Jane,

      I’m glad you’ve found our blog. You ask really important questions, and if you call one of our Associates on our C.O.P.D. Information Line, they can certainly help you out. Their number is 866-316-2673 and they are available from 9AM to 9PM EST Monday through Friday. Give them a call today!

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