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FEV1 and COPD: Understanding Medical Terms

3 Jul 2017
| Under COPD, Disease Education, Medical | Posted by | 2 Comments
FEV1 and COPD: Understanding Medical Terms

Understanding FEV1 and COPD shouldn’t require a doctor’s degree. We’re here to make it simple.

Have you been recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? If so you’ve probably got a lot of questions regarding what to expect after a prognosis, your life expectancy, and the complex medical terms and acronyms behind your condition. For many who have been recently diagnosed, the path may have gone similar to this:

  • After smoking for “x” number of years, they’ve noticed some significant changes in their breathing and/or energy levels and decide to visit the doctor.
  • Their doctor, after running various tests and measurements, determines a diagnosis of COPD
  • Briefly explaining the patient’s disease, they recommend a treatment plan based on the stage of the disease (this can vary)
  • The patient, still in shock from the initial diagnosis, is left to their own devices to research their disease, methods to relieve their symptoms and more effective COPD treatment options.

In this pursuit of information, it can be difficult to get to the heart of your disease’s development, symptom expression and progression. In truth, understanding terms like FEV1 and knowing just what an “obstructive lung disease” really means doesn’t always come simple for those outside of the medical field.

At the Lung Institute, we understand the importance of knowledge as it allows for the planning of what’s to come. So, with your health in mind, we’re here to breakdown FEV1 and COPD.

What is COPD?

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an obstructive lung disease that can range from mild to severe. The term, obstructive, refers to a restriction of airflow out of the lungs that makes breathing particularly difficult. It’s a progressive disease, which means that from its diagnosis it will only continue to get worse; however, this can be slowed with medication, surgery or other effective treatment options.

Perhaps what’s most important about the disease however is that COPD is actually a disease that is made up of two primary conditions: emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.

COPD affects a patient’s quality of life dramatically through its symptom expression, which includes shortness of breath, coughing, mucus production and general fatigue. Although this may sound like a laundry list of conditions, the combination of these ailments can create very real problems for those with the disease: time confined inside the home because your mobility is limited, less time to spend with your children and grandchildren and an inability to work.

What is FEV1?


Given that COPD is a lung disease that is typically diagnosed after a series of pulmonary function tests are performed, the FEV1 is a metric used to determine the disease’s staging.

Let’s start here: FEV stands for short or forced expiratory volume and its metric—the FEV1—effectively judges the amount of air you can force out of your lungs within a single second. The FEV1 is taken as a part of a spirometry test which is also known as a pulmonary function test (PFT). Essentially this test involves blowing into a mouthpiece of a machine to determine your lung’s airflow ability. The reading or FEV1 is then compared to the healthy adult average. For scores below that average, a determination on a breathing obstruction is found.

Based on the standards set by GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) the percentage values translate into the following COPD stages

  • Mild – 80% (5+ years after diagnosis)
  • Moderate – 50-79% (3-5 years after diagnosis)
  • Severe – 30-49% (2-3 years after diagnosis)
  • Very Severe – Less than 30% (2< years after diagnosis)

It’s important to remember that these stages are inherently general and can vary wildly depending on the individual, their genetic history, their past with smoking, lifestyle changes and treatment plan.

Okay, So What Can I Do Next?

Although a diagnosis of COPD can be a difficult—and stressful—lifestyle adjustment to deal with, small changes in your day-to-day life can have a significant impact on your disease’s progression and symptom expression. Step 1 after a diagnosis begins here:

Quit smoking

quit smoking

For many baby boomers, smoking was a way of life since childhood. It’s a habit that’s been ingrained over years and can seem impossible to reject. However, with each inhalation from a cigarette, a small portion of time is removed from your life. And regardless of the benefits of smoking, none can outweigh the loss of time with friends, family, and grandchildren.

After quitting smoking, your general health should be your primary focus. Address your diet by eating healthier and more nutritious meals. Next, you’ll want to develop an exercise routine; it doesn’t have to train you to run a marathon, but a little bit of movement to get the blood pumping can have a significant effect on your lungs ability to do their job.

Moving Forward

With these behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with emphysema, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider cellular therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, cellular therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.

For more information on cellular therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, call us at 888-745-6697. Our patient coordinators will walk you through our available treatment options, talk through your current health and medical history and determine a qualifying treatment plan that works best for you.

If you found this article interesting, share your thoughts and comments below.

* Every patient is given a Patient Satisfaction Survey shortly after treatment. Responses to the 11-question survey are aggregated to determine patient satisfaction with the delivery of treatment.

^ Quality of Life Survey data measured the patient’s self-assessed quality of life and measurable quality of improvement at three months of COPD patients.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.

Each patient is different. Results may vary.