The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects everyone differently and can range from mild to severe. COPD is a progressive condition, which means it worsens over time. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the third leading cause of death in the United States and affects more than 11 million people in the U.S. It’s estimated that 24 million may have COPD without knowing it. Much is written about coping with the different stages of the disease and finding suitable treatment options, but what about COPD Stages, and What They Mean to a Caregiver?
How are COPD Stages Identified?
Caregivers should know that a doctor is likely to recommend a pulmonary function test (PFT) to determine how well a patient’s lungs function and whether their current COPD treatment plan is working. Doctors use pulmonary function test results to determine the patient’s stage COPD. In combination with pulmonary function tests, the two most common methods used to measure COPD severity are the GOLD System and the BODE Index.
Gold System and COPD Stages
The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) developed the GOLD System, which places COPD into stages based on severity. GOLD uses the forced expiratory volume (FEV1) test, derived from the pulmonary function test, to categorize COPD severity into stages. Forced expiratory volume (FEV1) shows the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second. COPD is divided into four stages of progression.
How the GOLD System Separates COPD Stages:
- Stage 1: Very mild COPD — FEV1 at 80 percent or more of normal.
- Stage 2: Moderate COPD — FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal.
- Stage 3: Severe COPD — FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal.
- Stage 4: Very severe COPD — FEV1 lower than Stage 3, or encompassing those with Stage 3 FEV1 and low blood oxygen levels
BODE Index for COPD
The BODE Index also measures the severity of COPD. “BODE” stands for body mass, airflow obstruction, dyspnea and exercise capacity. The BODE Index attempts to measure how COPD affects a person’s life.
- Body Mass
- Airflow Obstruction
- Dyspnea (Shortness of Breath)
- Exercise Capacity
The body mass index (BMI) helps determine if a person is normal weight, overweight, obese or underweight. Airflow obstruction refers to FEV1. Dyspnea refers to the difficulty a person has breathing, and exercise capacity refers to one’s physical tolerance for exercise. Many people with COPD take a 6-minute walk test, which measures the distance one can walk in 6 minutes—to evaluate the level of exercise tolerance. Combined, these measurements constitute the BODE Index and can be used to determine the stage of, or approximate life expectancy with, COPD.
Knowing the stage of a patient’s COPD can aid caregivers in understanding a patient’s requirements, as well as in planning for future medical supplies, treatment and hospitalization.
COPD Stages, and What They Mean to a Caregiver
Although COPD progressively worsens, and the cure is currently undiscovered, treatment options exist to help people struggling with the disease breathe more easily. Pharmaceuticals, oxygen therapy, diet, exercise and natural supplements are COPD treatment options that many have found effective in easing symptoms. Another option is stem cell therapy, a cutting-edge treatment for chronic lung disease that many of our patients have found to improve pulmonary function and their quality of life. Some have reduced or even eliminated their reliance on oxygen therapy. Unlike traditional treatment options, stem cell therapy may promote healing in the lungs. We are excited to offer our patients the benefits of this natural treatment, harnessing the human body’s built-in healing system to make breathing easier. If you care for someone who suffers from COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease, and would like to learn about stem cell treatment options, please contact us at (800) 729-3065.