The official blog of the Lung Institute.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), then you probably have lots of questions. Because COPD and other chronic lung diseases are chronic and progressive, the disease will worsen over time. However, finding the right treatment plan for you is essential to having a good quality of life. Here’s what you need to know about lung prognosis with COPD so that you can stay proactive in your healthcare.
How many people have COPD?
Approximately 12 million people in the United States have a diagnosis of COPD. However, it’s estimated that 24 million people may have the disease without knowing it. At this time, COPD is the third leading cause of death. While there’s no cure for COPD, treatment options are available.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is characterized by the restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs, making breathing difficult. Many people with COPD have trouble walking short distances and are susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia. The term COPD also encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The causes of COPD include smoking, having the alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and long-term exposure to inhaled pollutants. The severity of symptoms range from mild to severe and include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, recurrent infections and more.
What is my lung prognosis with COPD?
Unfortunately, your lung prognosis with COPD depends on many varying factors. Because chronic lung diseases affect everyone differently and can range from mild to severe, it’s impossible to know exactly what the life expectancy is for someone with COPD. However researchers have tried to come up with a general way to measure life expectancy for people with COPD. One measurement is called the GOLD System, and one method used is called staging.
GOLD System and Staging
Staging is a way to measure the severity of COPD. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) came up with the GOLD System. GOLD uses the forced expiratory volume (FEV1) test—the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second—to categorize the severity of COPD into 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.
Generally speaking, as the stage numbers get higher, the lung prognosis with COPD worsens.
Other scientists believe there are other ways to measure the severity of COPD. These scientists came up with the BODE Index. BODE stands for body mass, airflow obstruction, dyspnea and exercise capacity. The BODE Index takes into account how COPD affects your life.
The body mass index (BMI) is used to determine if you’re underweight, overweight or obese. Airflow obstruction refers to your FEV1, which is similar to the GOLD system. Dyspnea simply means trouble breathing, so measuring dyspnea can help determine lung prognosis with COPD. Exercise capacity refers to exercise tolerance. Many people with COPD take a six minute walk test to evaluate their level of exercise tolerance. Combined, these measurements make up the BODE Index and can be used to determine lung prognosis or an approximate life expectancy.
What can you do to regain your quality of life?
While COPD is a chronic, progressive disease with no known cure, there are things you can do to breathe better, improve your lung function and promote healing. It’s important to see your doctor regularly even if you’re feeling well. Discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor. You and your physician can develop a treatment plan that works best for you. Your doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation, medications, supplemental oxygen, gentle exercises, tips to improve your blood oxygen levels and even diet modifications. Your doctor will likely monitor your lung prognosis with COPD from time to time.
Many people have found alternative treatments, such as stem cell therapy, helpful. The Lung Institute uses stem cells derived from the patient’s body. They extract stem cells from a patient’s blood or bone marrow, isolate the cells and return them to the patient intravenously. Many patients have noticed improved pulmonary function test (PFT) results, better quality of life and have come off their supplemental oxygen after treatment. If you or a loved one has COPD or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.