The official blog of the Lung Institute.
How does a person know when the time has come to take action on their own to arrest the progression of chronic lung disease? Specific telltale symptoms indicate that breathing-related discomfort could be something serious. Let’s discuss what these indicators are, and when it may be time to ask, Is it Time to Consider Stem Cell Therapy?
What are the Symptoms?
Shortness of breath is the principal symptom of COPD. It’s caused by blocked or clogged airways and damaged alveoli, the tiny pulmonary air sacs where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is released. Other COPD symptoms may include wheezing, chest tightness and chronic cough. People with COPD may tire easily, have frequent colds and flu infections, and they produce excessive mucus or sputum. Symptoms gradually worsen over time, and people with advanced symptoms of COPD may gain weight, resulting from the increased difficulty of exercise. This results in a loss of endurance and muscle mass, frequent morning headaches and a bluish or greyish color under the fingernails due to the decreased level of oxygen in the blood. Conversely, some COPD patients may lose weight to the extent that they become extremely thin.
Many patients with COPD also develop chronic bronchitis, a daily cough that causes airway inflammation, mucus overproduction and frequent viral or bacterial infections. Since smoking is often the cause of chronic bronchitis, the “smoker’s cough” is a likely sign of COPD and chronic bronchitis. Treatment for chronic bronchitis can include bronchodilators, steroids and oxygen therapy.
In emphysema, the small air sacs in the lungs that exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen, known as alveoli, are damaged. When this happens, carbon dioxide and oxygen cannot be exchanged. Eventually, the alveoli die, leaving gaps in the lungs that result in lost lung tissue and increased COPD symptoms. Symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Diagnosis and Traditional Treatments
The physical exam is important in diagnosis of COPD and includes the patient’s breathing history, smoking history and family medical history. The first simple, non-invasive test usually involves the pulse oximeter, which measures the amount (percent saturation) of oxygen in the blood and tests the amount of oxygen being sent to body extremities farthest from the heart. The pulse oximeter is placed on a finger or ear lobe and measures oxygen levels using light.
Spirometry is a test that measures how much air you can move in and out of your lungs over a short period of time and is used to test for COPD. Spirometry involves breathing into a large hose connected to a machine, called a spirometer. The test can identify early COPD, and even help determine the stage of COPD in the patient. The test also shows how well certain medicines affect a person’s COPD symptoms.
A chest X-ray may be able to show enlarged lungs that can occur in some patients with COPD (due to hyperinflation). However, X-ray is more useful to help rule out or rule in other problems that may cause symptoms similar to COPD, such as pneumonia.
Standard treatment for COPD may include bronchio-dilating medications, steroids, antibiotics and oxygen. For any chronic lung disease, quitting smoking immediately and avoiding airborne irritants is essential.
The prognosis for people with mild COPD is good, but may worsen as the severity and stage of the disease increases. The average life expectancy of a COPD patient who opts for a lung transplant is about five years. People diagnosed with COPD have a much better outlook if they quit smoking. Prognosis is dependent on the stage of the illness and the overall health of the patient.
There are four stages of COPD and each stage has different symptoms. Patients will usually participate in a pulmonary function test (PFT) when being diagnosed with their stage of COPD.
Stage I (Mild COPD) Symptoms
- Shortness of breath when hurrying or walking on an incline
- Lack of cough or mucus
- PFT results of 80% or more
Stage II (Moderate COPD) Symptoms
- Walking more slowly due to shortness of breath
- Possible cough or mucus
- PFT results of 50%-80%
Stage III (Severe COPD) Symptoms
- Out of breath after a few minutes of walking
- Possible cough and/or mucus
- Increased fatigue
- PFT results of 30%-50%
Stage IV (Very Severe COPD) Symptoms
- Too breathless to leave home
- Breathless during everyday tasks
- Reduced quality of life
- PFT results of less than 30%
Is it time to consider stem cell therapy?
If you are diagnosed with COPD, your doctor will discuss a treatment plan, which will most likely consist of traditional remedies that treat your symptoms, rather than the disease itself. As these symptoms intensify, many people decide to take charge of their situation by seeking an alternative treatment—autologous stem cell therapy. So, is it time to consider stem cell therapy?
At the Lung Institute, we screen each patient thoroughly, focusing on medical history and current condition to encourage only the best-possible treatment results. Using the natural maintenance capabilities of stem cells, we first withdraw, isolate and concentrate the patient’s stem cells from their blood or bone marrow. We then reintroduce the stem cells into the body where they naturally come to rest inside the lungs, promoting healing and inflammation reduction.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic lung condition and have been cancer-free for at least five years, perhaps stem cell therapy at the Lung Institute can improve your quality of life. To learn more, join us for one of our frequent online webinars and in-person seminars, or contact us by calling (800) 729-3065 to find out if you qualify for treatment.