A chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) prognosis is never good news. As of the latest reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lung disease is the third leading cause of death in America. This post highlights an all-too-common question: What does my COPD prognosis mean?
There is no quick answer or rule when deciphering the prognosis of COPD. Having such a severe and progressive lung disease will shorten your lifespan, but how much depends on a number of variables such as overall health. One method doctors and researchers have developed for predicting life expectancy is the GOLD System. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease developed a system to track the progression of COPD by stages:
- Stage 1 – very mild COPD
- Stage 2 – moderate COPD
- Stage 3 – severe emphysema/chronic bronchitis
- Stage 4 – very severe COPD
Prognosis of COPD
The disorder begins in stage 1, with mild symptoms:
- Chronic coughing
- Sputum: coughing up mucus
- Dyspnea: breathing discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Stage 2 of COPD occurs when the symptoms listed above worsen due to the continued decline in lung function. In stage 2, a patient sees pulmonary function test results worsen with the advent of chest tightness. Long-acting bronchodilators are often introduced at this point to help alleviate this chest tightness. Long-acting bronchodilators don’t offer immediate relief. Rather, they ease breathing over an extended period.
Eventually, stage 2 COPD likely progresses into stage 3. During stage 3, lung function further declines, causing the symptoms listed above to worsen. Added symptoms at this stage include unintended weight loss and frequent respiratory infections. Additional treatment precautions might be added at this point, including daily medications and participation in a pulmonary rehabilitation class.
The final phase of COPD is stage 4, the most severe stage. The signature shortness of breath in stage 4 of COPD takes the greatest toll on quality of life. At this stage, respiratory distress can become life threatening. PFT results typically show less than 30 percent of normal lung function. COPD is a serious condition with a profound impact on all aspects of life. Symptoms take awhile to develop, and may not be noticeable until the disorder is well developed.
Treatment for COPD is commonly limited to prescription drugs and supplemental oxygen. This strategy treats symptoms, but not the disease itself. This has lead sufferers to look beyond common practices to alternative treatment options. These options include homeopathic approaches like the integration of herbs and supplements into your diet to help increase lung function. Increasingly, people have been looking to pulmonary rehabilitation classes and regular exercise routines to help combat their weakening lungs. On the medical front, an innovative treatment option called stem cell therapy allows patients to take their healthcare into their own hands.
Stem cells are the body’s natural healing mechanism. When you get a cut on your finger or suffer from a debilitating lung condition, stem cells travel throughout the body to target the damaged tissue and promote healing in its place. For a simple cut, that means a couple days of scabbing and maybe a little bleeding, but eventually your skin looks like new again. Unfortunately, the same is not the case for chronic progressive disease. Stem cells don’t work as quickly to promote the healing of the tissue as the disease does in destroying it. Stem cell therapy involves transferring stem cells from one part of the body to another, focusing the healing ability of the cells in a much more rapid and concentrated manner.
If you or a loved one is suffering from COPD and would like to learn more about treatment options, the Lung Institute may be able to help. Contact us by calling (800) 729-3065 to see if you qualify for stem cell therapy.