Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a medical condition which affects the lungs, with the sufferer feeling the narrowing of the airways, thus making it difficult to breath. With time, the condition makes the exchange of gases inside the lungs to be affected, leading to other serious complications. COPD may be caused by a single lung disease or a group of lung-related diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both, and long-term smoking is usually what causes the condition.
The COPD Stages
Mild COPD – Stage I
This is the stage where the symptoms of COPD may not or may be experienced by the individual. At this stage, the airflow in lungs is not too affected, making the disease to be ignored completely.
Moderate Cough – Stage II
At this stage, the airflow in lungs is obstructed more, making the individual to suffer shortness of breath. The production of cough and sputum will increase, and it is at this stage that the attention of the doctor is given consideration.
Severe COPD – Stage III
There is increase in the shortness of breath at this stage, as there is limitation in the airflow to the lungs. The ability to take part in physical activities will also be reducing here, as the supply of oxygen to the body through the lungs is getting reduced. This then leads to fatigue, where the mental and physical strength decreases.
Very Severe COPD – Stage IV
This is the last of the COPD stages; it is when the condition has deteriorated completely. The reduced airflow to the lungs becomes worse, making the person to completely abandon physical activities through lack of strength. There will also be chronic respiratory failure and increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, leading to a condition known as cor pulmonale.
The severity of COPD is determined by the ratio FEV1/FVC, and the life expectancy depends on the severity of disease, but may also differ from one sufferer to another one, even if they are both going through the same stage or stages. However, some things which could still help in predicting COPD life expectancy are age, mode of treatment, height, gender, weight, lifestyle changes (such as cessation of smoking), and so on. In most cases, drugs such as steroids, anti-inflammatory medication and bronchodilators can be used in treatment. To some extent, oxygen therapy could also be effective, while lung transplant could provide a permanent solution to severe symptoms.