The official blog of the Lung Institute.
With all of the numbers, facts and information you have to remember about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may have many questions. One common question is, “how long can I live with COPD?” It’s an important one to ask, but many people understandably feel too worried or afraid to ask it. Because COPD and other chronic, progressive lung diseases affect everyone differently, there’s no way to accurately predict the life expectancy of people with COPD. However, researchers and doctors have come up with ways to estimate and measure life expectancy and prognosis by placing COPD into stages. The COPD stages, prognosis and life expectancy all work together to help doctors develop a COPD treatment plan for their patients. Here’s what you need to know about COPD stages, prognosis and life expectancy.
How are COPD Stages, Prognosis and Life Expectancy Determined?
Because COPD affects everyone differently and can range from mild to severe, your COPD stages, lung prognosis and life expectancy depend on many varying factors. COPD is a progressive condition, meaning it will worsen over time. Including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, COPD, the third leading cause of death in the United States, is a major obstructive lung disease that currently affects over 11 million people in the U.S. However, it’s estimated that 24 million may have COPD without even knowing it.
Your doctor is likely going to recommend that you have a pulmonary function test (PFT) to determine how well your lungs are working and how well your COPD treatment plan is working. With the pulmonary function test results, your doctor may use that information to aid in determining what stage your COPD is in. In combination with pulmonary function tests, the two most commonly used methods to measure the severity of COPD is through the GOLD System and the BODE Index.
Gold System and COPD Stages
One way to measure prognosis and life expectancy is through the GOLD System of staging, which places COPD into stages based on severity. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) came up with the GOLD System. GOLD uses the forced expiratory volume (FEV1) test from your pulmonary function test to categorize the severity of COPD into stages. The forced expiratory volume (FEV1) shows the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second. COPD has four total stages, and your airflow becomes more limited with each stage.
Here are your numbers and how the GOLD System breaks down the COPD Stages:
- Stage 1: Very mild COPD with a FEV1 about 80 percent or more of normal.
- Stage 2: Moderate COPD with a FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal.
- Stage 3: Severe emphysema with FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal.
- Stage 4: Very severe COPD with a lower FEV1 than Stage 3, or those with Stage 3 FEV1 and low blood oxygen levels
Simply put, as the COPD Stage numbers increase, the lung prognosis and life expectancy with COPD worsens.
BODE Index for COPD
Other scientists came up with the BODE Index to measure the severity of COPD. BODE stands for body mass, airflow obstruction, dyspnea and exercise capacity. The BODE Index accounts for how COPD affects your life.
- Body Mass
- Airflow Obstruction
- Exercise Capacity
The body mass index (BMI) helps determine if you’re overweight, obese or underweight. Airflow obstruction refers to your FEV1, which is similar to the GOLD system. Dyspnea means trouble breathing, and exercise capacity refers to exercise tolerance. Many people with COPD take a six-minute walk test—the distance you can walk in 6 minutes—to evaluate their level of exercise tolerance. These combined measurements make up the BODE Index and can be used to put COPD into stages or approximate life expectancy with COPD.
What do the numbers mean in COPD Stages, Prognosis and Life Expectancy?
Unfortunately, COPD worsens over time, and there is no known cure. However, there are treatment options available to help people breathe easier. Medications, oxygen therapy, diet, exercise, natural supplements and stem cell therapy are all COPD treatment options. In fact, many of our patients have seen improved pulmonary function, better quality of life and have reduced or come off of their oxygen therapy. Unlike traditional treatment options, stem cell therapy works to promote healing within the lungs and addresses the problem at its source. If you or a loved one have COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn about your stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.