Subscribe to our Newsletter:
Healthy Diet Plans >>  Health Issues and Diet >>  COPD

COPD Stages, Information

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, more commonly referred to as COPD, can be described as a group of diseases that affect the lungs. These diseases block the flow of air, making it difficult for a person to inhale or exhale. While there are several different respiratory conditions that can be regarded as a COPD, the two main health problems that make up COPD are emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis. All forms of COPD cause damage to the airways, which eventually interfere with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.

There are 4 different COPD stages that an affected patient can go through, if the condition continues to progress.
The first stage, which is the “mild COPD” stage, is usually accompanied by shortness of breath and a cough. Most people do not even realize that they are suffering from a problem. The second stage, which is the “moderate COPD” stage, usually leads to severe shortness of breath, especially after engaging in physical activity. The third state, which is the “severe COPD” stage increases the severity of breathing problems and also triggers off fatigue and reduced physical capacity. The last stage of this condition is very severe, where the shortness of breath can be life-threatening. There are several different factors that could lead to the development of COPD in a person. Environmental factors like exposure to dust, pollen, smoke, animal dander and harsh chemicals is one of the causes of COPD. Those who have a family history of this condition are at a much higher risk and therefore, should be more careful. The main cause of hereditary COPD is the deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin.

Studies indicate that COPD is one of the main causes of illnesses as well as death throughout the world. This condition is responsible for around 100,000 deaths each year, in the United States. There are several severe complications that can arise from this disease, such as hypertension, heart diseases and lung cancer. The exact COPD life expectancy may vary from one case to the other, as it is dependent on several factors, which include the severity of the problem, type of treatment adopted as well as the patient’s age, weight, gender and habits. For a more accurate COPD prognosis, i.e., to know the most likely course and outcome of the disease in a person, many healthcare providers use a BODE Index tool, which helps predict COPD mortality.

Even though this affliction is so common all over the world, many people are not aware of even the most basic COPD information. There are several myths about reversible COPD and contagious COPD, causing people to consult their doctor to get them verified. However it is important to note that COPD is neither contagious, nor can it be treated or reversed.

COPD Symptoms

The instances of COPD in women seem to be on a rise. While the initial COPD symptoms in women are quite similar to those seen in men, studies indicate that the condition progresses more rapidly in women. Given below are some of the most common COPD symptoms in men and women:
  • Coughing
  • Shortness in breath
  • Weight loss
  • Severe fatigue
  • Decline in physical and mental activities
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chronic cough with yellow colored sputum
  • Increased vulnerability to lung diseases and infections

In most cases, it is common to see COPD symptoms in adults who are over the age of 40. However, in a few rare instances, there have been reports of COPD symptoms in children too. This can happen in case of those children who have a genetic disorder of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The most common symptoms seen in children who are suffering from this condition include shortness of breath, wheezing problems and difficulty in breathing.

As soon as any of the symptoms of COPD are evident, it is important to consult a health care provider and undergo treatment. Even though there is no cure for the condition and the damage to the lungs cannot be undone, the treatment can manage the symptoms to a great extent and can minimize the risks of any further complications.

What are the symptoms of end stage COPD?

Many people do not realize that they are suffering from COPD in the initial stages, mainly because the symptoms are quite mild. It is only as the condition progresses that the symptoms become more noticeable and perhaps even severe. Given below are some of the early signs of COPD:

  • Tightness and discomfort in the chest area
  • A wheezing sound that is heard while breathing, especially when inhaling
  • Shortness of breath, which worsens after any form of physical activity
  • A persistent and ongoing cough that can produce a large amount of mucus

Unfortunately, these symptoms are not exclusive to COPD and can be seen even in those individuals who are suffering from other milder conditions. This could one of the reasons that COPD goes unnoticed for a while.

As the condition progresses, the symptoms could get much worse and may also cause the patient to be hospitalized. Given below are some of the most severe, end stage COPD symptoms:

  • Simple activities like talking and catching the breath become difficult tasks
  • Changes in the color of the lips and fingernails, where they turn blue in color
  • Elevation in heartbeat rate
  • Mental alertness reduces drastically

Another grave sign of COPD is when the symptoms do not seem respond positively to any form of treatment.

COPD Causes

COPD is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Data shows that COPD death rate per year continues to climb across different states and by the year 2020, this condition is expected to rise to the position of the third-leading cause of deaths in the US. At the moment, this disease claims more than 100,000 lives each year and another 700,000 individuals are hospitalized because of it.

COPD Causes and Symptoms

One of the most common factors leading to COPD is excess exposure to smoke. Therefore, people who smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke very often are at a high risk of COPD. Nevertheless, this condition can also affect those who have no contact with cigarette smoking. Common causes for COPD in non smokers include exposure to dust, air pollutants and chemical fumes. Medical conditions such as chronic asthmatic bronchitis or emphysema also have a severe effect on the lungs and the respiratory system, which is why they can lead to COPD.

The most common symptoms of this condition are shortness of breath, chest tightness and a cough, which may be productive. It is also common for people to experience fatigue and wheezing in COPD. Though rare, there are some people who get a barrel chest in COPD. This can be described as a bulging, rounded chest, which resembles the shape of a barrel. This symptom usually shows up in the later stages of the condition, as the lungs get overinflated and the ribcage remains partially expanded at all times.

COPD Treatment

There is no set COPD treatment plan that can undo the damage caused to the patient’s lungs and cure the problem. Fortunately, there are a few COPD treatment options that can help control the symptoms and reduce the discomfort caused by them. At the same time, it is important to undergo COPD treatment, so that the risks of exacerbations and complications can be minimized. This enables the patient to lead a healthier life.

COPD Medications

There are many basic groups of medication, which can help to treat the symptoms of COPD. Given below are the medicines that are usually recommended for COPD treatment: 
  • Antibiotics
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Bronchodilators

According to medical COPD treatment guidelines, some of these medicines need to be taken on a regular basis, whereas others should only be taken when required. Before taking any medication, it is imperative to consult a doctor, even if the need it felt.

Is there a natural cure for COPD?

Unfortunately, there is neither a conventional nor a natural cure for COPD. However, there are several simple steps that can be followed in order to control the symptoms of COPD. Given below are a few minor lifestyle adjustments to help improve COPD:

  • Practicing breathing techniques, for better breath control
  • Use a humidifier for to clear the airways
  • Get an adequate amount of exercise each day
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Avoid crowds
  • Quit the habit of smoking

COPD is a very serious problem and should be monitored by a health care provider at all times.

Submitted on January 16, 2014