Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affects 16 million adults in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD refers to two main conditions — chronic bronchitis and emphysema. If you’ve received a COPD diagnosis, it can be tough to know what to expect from the disease as it progresses. For many people, one of the leading questions is whether COPD can be reversed. Learn more about this disease and what kind of treatments offer promising results.
Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
COPD occurs because of damage to the airways or other parts of the lungs, blocking airflow and making it more difficult to breathe. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema can lead to the development of COPD.
Chronic bronchitis affects your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis irritates these tubes, leading to the production of mucus that narrows the tube’s opening, making it much harder to breathe.
Usually, hair-like structures called cilia move mucus out of your airways, but the irritation from bronchitis damages the cilia.
Emphysema is a condition that affects the air sacs at the end of the bronchial tubes. These air sacs assist in the transfer of oxygen into your blood and carbon dioxide out. Emphysema destroys the walls of these sacs, making it tough to get a breath.
COPD can cause symptoms that include:
Shortness of breath
Chest heaviness or tightness
Whistling or wheezing when you breathe
Cough with mucus
Not everyone who has COPD experiences all of these symptoms.
Causes of COPD
One of the biggest risk factors of COPD is smoking. The majority of people who have COPD smoke or has a history of smoking. If you have a family history of COPD, you are more likely to develop it if you smoke. Smoke irritates the airways, causing inflammation while also damaging the cilia that moves mucus.
If you’ve suffered long-term exposure to other lung irritants, you could also be at risk. Irritants can be chemical fumes, dust, air pollution, smoke from home cooking, and heating fuel. Secondhand smoke can also be a factor.
Your age is also a consideration if you have other risk factors. Most people who have COPD are at least 40.
Infections like tuberculosis and HIV also put you at risk. If you have asthma, you also could experience COPD.
One of the potential genetic causes of COPD is a condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. If you have this condition, long-term exposure to fumes or smoking can result in lung damage, leading to COPD. AAT deficiency makes it easier to develop the disease earlier in life.
Treatment of COPD: Managing Symptoms
Treating COPD means finding ways of decreasing symptoms. The first thing you have to do is to quit smoking if you’re still engaged in this habit. Continuing to smoke as you deal with COPD will only make the condition worse.
Bronchodilators and steroids are options that can help with symptoms. If you have mild COPD, your doctor may prescribe short-acting bronchodilators that you use only when you experience symptoms. These bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways.
If you have a more severe case of COPD, you may need to take bronchodilators every day. In some instances, your doctor may prescribe them along with steroids.
Can COPD Be Reversed? For some people, pulmonary rehabilitation is helpful. This option includes exercise training and breathing techniques to help you better manage the symptoms.
Oxygen therapy is another option. You receive supplemental oxygen from tubes that rest in your nose, a face mask, or a tube that goes into your windpipe.
Surgery is generally only done in people with severe COPD that doesn’t respond to other treatment options. There are a few different types of surgeries. Getting a lung transplant is another option, though it is even rarer than surgery.
Slowing the Progression of COPD: Promising Options
Although it’s not yet possible to reverse the conditions, it can be possible to slow down the progression of COPD. The first step is to get an early diagnosis and intervention. If you suspect you have COPD, it’s important to ask your doctor for a spirometry test.
If you have a family history of the condition or have smoked for a long time, it can help to get a test even if you don’t have symptoms.
It can also be helpful to learn both diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates relaxation and increases oxygen saturation while also reducing the amount of air trapped in your lungs. Pursed-lip breathing, on the other hand, offers quick relief for someone experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing.
You will also need to avoid environmental triggers. These triggers can include air pollutants, extreme temperature changes, smoke, and strenuous activities.
Additionally, stem cell therapy offers the chance to slow down the progression of COPD. It uses stem cells to stimulate your body to start healing itself. It could speed up your lungs’ ability to heal themselves.
Stem cell therapy can also be helpful in preventing inflammation by assisting you in producing anti-inflammatory molecules.
One of the best things about stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine options is that it’s minimally invasive and doesn’t require a long recovery process. You also don’t have to worry about side effects or rejections.
Living With COPD: Choosing the Best Treatment Strategies
Once your lungs suffer the kind of damage COPD causes, reversing the condition is usually not an option. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t improve your symptoms and even dramatically slow down the disease’s progression.
Stem cell therapy is an option that offers the chance to help your body heal itself, even if not entirely. A combination of treatments can be the most effective way of dealing with COPD, so make sure to speak with a specialist on your treatment options.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects nearly 16 million adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. COPD refers to a number of progressive lung diseases that affect all aspects of your life, potentially leading you to not being able to work or participate in your favorite activities. There are some good habits, therapies, and treatments for COPD that you can turn to.
The Basics of a COPD Diagnosis
COPD is an umbrella term that includes a number of different progressive lung diseases. A COPD diagnosis means you have one or more of these conditions — the two most common being chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis irritates the bronchial tubes, leading to their swelling. This causes mucus to build along the lining, making breathing more difficult. People who smoke or who have chronic bronchitis have damaged cilia, which are tiny hairs that usually move mucus out of the way. This means the mucus continues to build up.
Emphysema is the wearing down of the walls of the alveoli, or minuscule air sacs, found at the end of your bronchial tubes. These air sacs help transfer oxygen into your blood and carbon dioxide out, so if they don’t work efficiently, breathing becomes very difficult.
Some of the symptoms of COPD include:
Shortness of breath performing regular activities
Cough with mucus that persists
Struggling to take a deep breath
Smoking is one of the main causes of COPD, but it can also result from being exposed to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and workplace fumes and dust.
Most people who have COPD have a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although there’s no cure for COPD, there are many treatments and lifestyle change you can try to get relief from symptoms.
Bronchodilators come as nebulizers or inhalers because this allows the medications to reach your airways faster. Bronchodilators help open constricted airways, and there are two types of them — β-agonists and anticholinergics.
There are also anti-inflammatory medications you can inhale or take in pill form. Expectorants are another type of medication you may need. Expectorants help thin out mucus so that you can cough it up more easily.
Regenerative Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy
One of the most promising options for the treatment of COPD is regenerative medicine. Stem cell therapies allow you to stimulate your body’s natural healing processes, helping reduce inflammation so that the nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood can better reach your lungs and bronchial tubes.
Reducing inflammation can make breathing easier and can even reduce mucus production. Although stem cell therapy won’t cure COPD, it can help with the symptoms and might even help with the regeneration of damaged tissues in your airways.
Lifestyle Changes: Healthy Habits to Turn To
Making lifestyle changes is also important treatments for COPD. Staying active can be one of the most difficult things to do when it’s tough to get enough breath, but exercising helps strengthen muscles while also improving endurance. Exercise helps your body learn to use oxygen more efficiently. Try activities like walking, golfing, and gardening.
If you smoke, it is best to quit. If there are others in your family who smoke, you also need to get them to quit because every time you are exposed to smoke, it irritates your airways and causes more damage.
You also want to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts pressure on your whole body, including your lungs and airways. Losing weight can help improve your breathing, reducing the episodes of shortness of breath.
Make sure to eat correctly as well. Avoid foods that can cause inflammation, including sugar, fried items, processed meats, and more. Reduce your intake of junk food. Instead, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Consider getting vaccinated for the flu and other potential respiratory illnesses. Any infection can make COPD symptoms worse, so taking preventive actions can save you a lot of stress. In the same vein, wash your hands often and limit exposure to people who may be ill.
If you need to use supplemental oxygen, make sure to use it exactly as your doctor recommends. Lots of people don’t want to be seen with their oxygen tanks and cannulas when they are out in public, but not using them can be detrimental to your health.
You need to get enough rest as well. Shortness of breath can exhaust you, weakening your systems and making dealing with everyday life more difficult. When you get a good amount of rest, you allow your body to repair itself.
The air quality in your home is also crucial. Indoor air in homes is often more polluted than outdoor air. Installing a filter can be a great way of improving air quality.
Although it’s impossible to avoid all instances of stress, reducing it as much as possible is important. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can trigger inflammatory responses in the body. This inflammation makes COPD symptoms worse.
You also need to avoid your COPD triggers. These can be different for everyone, so understanding what causes worsening issues is crucial so that you can make the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle and environment. It can include avoiding certain cleaning products, ensuring that there’s no dust in your living space, and more.
Living With COPD Is Possible
If you have COPD, you may not be sure what treatments options will offer the kind of results you can depend on. For most people, a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and even regenerative treatments provide the necessary help for the management of symptoms.
Stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine options can assist in the reduction of inflammation and even help bring better blood flow to the lungs. Ask your healthcare provider if it is the best choice for your COPD.
Regenerative medicine using stem cell therapy has grown in popularity in the past years because of the promising results it has shown for the management of conditions, injuries, and other issues.
By understanding the power of stem cells, the options available, and the reasons why some people are hesitant while others urge research forward, you can decide for yourself whether they are the appropriate treatment option for you.
What Are Stem Cells, and How Do They Help?
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells with the potential to become and create specialized cells. They function as a repair system for the body, contributing to the process of tissue regeneration while also supporting normal growth and development.
Stem cells have two crucial and unique abilities: pluripotency and self-renewal. Pluripotency is the ability to become any kind of cell needed, and self-renewal refers to the way they can replicate themselves indefinitely, providing a never-ending supply of undifferentiated cells.
Different Types of Stem Cells
There are three broad categories of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells. Each option has diverse applications and unique characteristics.
Embryonic cells come from blastocyst-stage embryos, which are embryos that are from three to five days old. They usually derive from in vitro fertilization clinics. At this stage, the embryo contains an inner cell mass capable of creating all of the tissues that make up the human body. Embryonic cells are fertilized in a lab and donated with full consent. But due to ethical controversy, it is widely used in research only.
Adult stem cells are found in various tissues and organs throughout the adult human body. These stem cells are multipotent, so they can transform into a limited number of stem cells. Adult stem cells help maintain tissue homeostasis and repair and replace damaged cells.
Adult stem cells include:
Mesenchymal stem cells
Blood stem cells
Skin stem cells
Neural stem cells
Epithelial stem cells
Induced pluripotent stem cells are made by reprogramming certain adult stem cells into a pluripotent state with the use of genetic factors. These cells are similar to embryonic stem cells in the way they function.
Stem Cell Research: Why There’s Controversy
Using stem cells and performing stem cell research still poses challenges in ethics for some people, especially when turning to embryonic stem cells.
Concerns over when personhood begins make the use of embryonic stem cells more complex because there’s a worry about the moral status of embryos and whether they can be used or discarded.
It’s crucial to understand that the embryos that are used have never been in a woman’s body. They are embryos that fertility clinics would otherwise discard. Although the discarding of the embryos is not usually a controversy, the use of those same embryos for research creates controversy for some.
In this regard, induced pluripotent stem cells are more readily accepted because they don’t rely on embryos. Other issues can arise, however, when it comes to the actual process of researching stem cells. This includes oversight concerns as well as consent issues.
Arguments for Stem Cell Research
Because of the benefits that stem cell therapy offers, many scientists encourage research to improve treatments and learn more about how human bodies function.
Stem cell research contributes to the understanding of cellular processes. This allows for the development of better treatment options, as well as a better comprehension of how some conditions form. Stem cells hold promise for the treatment of degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease, COPD, and Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, stem cell research offers the chance for scientists to understand how stem cells replace or repair damaged cells. This information would make it easier to provide targeted treatments that are more efficient and longer lasting.
Using stem cells to create new therapies and medical technologies opens the door to the creation of new jobs and specializations. These advanced treatments can also help decrease medical costs, helping the economy in the long run.
Ethical Use of Discarded Embryos
Embryos that have been made via in vitro fertilization processes and have gone unused can serve a purpose instead of being discarded. Many argue that this is a better option than treating the embryos like medical waste.
Arguments Against Stem Cell Research
Those against stem cell research generally cite safety and ethical concerns centering on consent and exploitation problems.
Safety and Efficacy
Because stem cell therapies are still relatively new, there are worries about how effective they can be. The issue with this argument against stem cell research is that it fights against the very thing that would provide a definite answer as to whether stem cells are effective and safe: ongoing research.
The ethical concerns mainly focus on the use of embryonic stem cells, including the worry about obtaining consent. In many instances, detractors suggest turning to induced pluripotent stem cells for research and avoiding embryonic cell use because of the ethical barriers that would slow the research down.
In other instances, the worry of consent focuses on the risk of the potential exploitation of vulnerable populations. Those against the research note concern about the possibility of future coercion and other similar activities.
However, as with any other form of research, the scientific community imposes strict guidelines designed to protect against these concerns.
Focusing on the Potential of Regenerative Medicine
Living with chronic conditions that affect quality of life usually means relying on medications, invasive procedures, and therapies that might manage some symptoms but don’t get to the root of the problem.
On the other hand, stem cell research offers the potential to not only understand the causes of some of the most debilitating conditions and injuries, but also to provide therapy solutions to help manage symptoms.
The path to learning more about conditions like COPD or Parkinson’s is not easy, but embracing new and promising treatment options can open a way forward. By tackling some of the ethical concerns people have about stem cells head-on, lives may be able to improve for many people around the world.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that affects about 12.5 million people in the United States. COPD can become progressively worse over time and affect your breathing.
Although lifestyle changes, oxygen therapy, and medications have traditionally served as the standard treatment choices, there is now another promising option for treating COPD, regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy.
Understanding COPD: Symptoms and Causes
COPD is the umbrella term for several conditions that cause airflow blockages and other breathing-related issues. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema can both lead to COPD. Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation of your bronchial tubes’ lining, while emphysema destroys the air sacs at the ends of the smallest air passages.
Key Symptoms of COPD
Common symptoms of COPD are:
Unintended weight loss
Shortness of breath
Chronic cough that produces clear, white, yellow, or green mucus
Swelling in feet and ankles
It’s common to experience exacerbations, which is when symptoms get significantly worse for days at a time. Many factors cause exacerbations, including exposure to air pollution, respiratory infections, and anything else that triggers inflammation.
Causes and Risk Factors
Those most likely to develop COPD are women and people who:
Are over 65.
Have experienced air pollution.
Had many respiratory infections during childhood.
One of the most prevalent causes of COPD is smoking. Smoking irritates your airways, triggering inflammation that narrows those airways. Because smoke also damages the cilia, they’re not able to effectively get rid of mucus or particles from the airways.
Another cause of COPD is alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. This is an uncommon disorder that can cause emphysema. When you have AAT deficiency, you don’t have an enzyme that protects your lungs from inflammation. The deficiency makes it easier for your lungs to experience damage from irritating substances like dust and smoke.
The Current Treatments and Their Limitations
Current COPD treatments include the use of bronchodilators and steroids — as well as oxygen therapy — to minimize the symptoms of the condition.
Bronchodilators are medications that relax the muscles around the airways, helping you get better airflow. Some bronchodilators offer quick relief for acute episodes, while others are more appropriate for maintenance.
Steroids work together with bronchodilators to reduce airway inflammation. The problem with steroids is that they have significant side effects when used as a long-term treatment. Some of these side effects include weight gain, an increased risk of developing infections, and even bone loss.
Oxygen therapy is appropriate for people who have severe hypoxemia because it helps improve oxygen levels and relieve symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs are other options that combine exercise training with education to help patients understand the condition better.
Surgery is the last recourse for people with severe COPD who don’t find any relief from medications or other options. For some people, a lung transplant is a viable choice. For others, the removal of damaged lung tissue can offer some relief from symptoms.
Limitations of Traditional Treatments
Although doctors have been providing these options for a long time, they have limitations. For instance, they may offer relief from symptoms, but they typically don’t address the underlying cause of the problem. Even after treatment, the damage to your airway passages and lungs remains.
The side effects of long-term use of these treatments can also be serious. Corticosteroids put a strain on your heart, cause muscle weakness, and can even impact wound healing, which can make them a challenging choice for long-term management of COPD.
More invasive procedures, like surgery, have significant risks. Additionally, there are limits to who can receive surgery for COPD because of the use of anesthesia.
Recent Advances in the Treatment of COPD
To help improve the quality of life of a patient with COPD, new treatment options are available. By working closely with your doctor, you can find the right choice for your unique needs.
Drug Therapy Innovations
The latest medications for those with COPD are new bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications that don’t cause the same side effects that may make you hesitate to try long-term drug treatments. The goal of these new medications is to offer longer-lasting support and reduce the flares you experience with COPD.
Your inhaler is an important part of a COPD treatment program, and the latest technologies allow for better drug delivery while also ensuring that the inhaling techniques are correct. All of this makes it easier to stick to using your inhaler regularly.
Stem Cell Therapy for COPD
A new potential treatment option for COPD is regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy. This type of regenerative medicine uses stem cells to help your body heal itself so that it can regenerate damaged tissue for better lung function.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be isolated from various sources, such as bone marrow, adipose tissue, or umbilical cord blood. These cells have the ability to differentiate into different cell types and possess immunomodulatory and regenerative properties.
MSCs have shown promise as a potential therapeutic approach for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While there is currently no cure for COPD, MSC-based therapies have the potential to modulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, and promote tissue repair in the lungs.
When administered into the lungs, MSCs can release anti-inflammatory molecules, promote tissue regeneration, and interact with the immune system to suppress excessive inflammation.
Getting Treatment for COPD
If you have COPD, ensuring that you have the right treatment plan on your side is vital for your long-term recovery. If you have COPD and it is progressively worsening, and there are limited treatment options available, you may want to explore stem cell therapy as a potential avenue for slowing disease progression or improving lung function.
Regenerative medicine aims to enhance what your body already does naturally, helping it heal so that you improve your quality of life. Speak to a regenerative specialist on the options you may have with this new alternative therapy option.
Are you suffering from the ongoing symptoms of COPD? In its earliest stages, COPD can present with mild effects that you may not even recognize. As the disease progresses, these symptoms can become more severe and impact your ability to function.
Fortunately, there are several treatments available for managing COPD — some of which can be performed at home without any medical intervention. The available home remedies include vitamin D, enhanced air quality, and breathing exercises.
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive condition caused by restricted airflow. There are two main types of COPD: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is defined by irritated, swollen bronchial tubes. Emphysema affects the alveoli within the lungs, making it harder for the lungs to transport oxygen into your bloodstream.
Both types of COPD present with similar symptoms, which include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and chest tightness. While there are numerous ways to address these symptoms, many patients choose to use natural, at-home remedies.
9 Natural Treatments for COPD
If you have mild symptoms of COPD, you may not yet be in need of medical intervention. Stage One COPD causes slight shortness of breath and coughing, both of which can be reduced with home remedies. The following are just nine ways to manage mild COPD symptoms from the comfort of your own home:
1. Improve Your Home’s Air Quality
The first step you should take to manage your COPD symptoms from home is improving the air quality in your environment. Air purifiers with high-quality filters can remove harmful particulates, such as chemical irritants, bacteria, pollen, and more, from the air.
Air purifiers are especially beneficial to COPD patients who have pets. An air purifier designed specifically for pet owners will remove the dander and dead skin cells your pet leaves behind. As a result, you get cleaner and clearer air quality in your home.
2. Stop Smoking
One of the biggest factors behind COPD is smoke. Tobacco causes inflammation within the airways, which can lead to narrowing and difficulty breathing. If you smoke cigarettes, you should stop doing so immediately. Ceasing to smoke will lead to a rapid improvement in your COPD symptoms, with more clear breathing and less coughing.
This also applies if you are exposed to secondhand smoke. If you live with someone who smokes, they should either quit or only smoke outdoors. Reducing your exposure to smoke will show a significant improvement in your COPD symptoms.
3. Reduce Your Stress
Another factor behind COPD is stress. Stress will not cause you to develop COPD, but it can certainly make symptoms worse if you already have the disease. Severe stress has been associated with exacerbated COPD symptoms, such as chronic cough and chest tightness.
When you have been diagnosed with COPD, make sure to manage your stress levels. You can try meditation, drinking green tea, or doing deep breathing exercises to produce a calming effect.
4. Develop Muscle Strength
For many people, being diagnosed with COPD puts an end to their active lifestyles — but it shouldn’t. While COPD symptoms can make it harder to exercise, remaining active will actually improve your symptoms over time. Exercise encourages stronger respiratory muscles and better breathing overall.
One of the best things you can do for your body after being diagnosed with COPD is to build strength. Interval training with alternating periods of high and low intensity can strengthen your muscles without overworking your heart and lungs.
5. Try Water-Based Exercises
Another form of exercise that can benefit your body and reduce COPD symptoms is water-based exercise. Swimming and water aerobics are great ways to improve respiratory function without putting too much stress on the body.
This type of exercise is low-impact and can even be more effective than land-based exercise in some cases. Water-based physical activity can also improve your overall mood and help manage your stress levels, which will have a positive effect on your COPD.
6. Practice Breathing Exercises
A major way to reduce the severity of your COPD is by taking up breathing exercises such as deep breathing, diaphragm breathing, and pursed-lip breathing. Rotating through these activities can help expand your lungs and allow for more oxygen intake. These breathing exercises can be practiced on a daily basis on your own or on a regular schedule with a group.
7. Use Eucalyptus Oil
Essential oils have been shown to provide a variety of health and wellness benefits when used properly. They may even offer some relief for COPD patients by opening up the airways and encouraging better breathing.
Specific essential oils are known to have beneficial properties for the respiratory system. The most notable one is eucalyptus oil, which can help clear mucus buildup, expand the airways, and even provide a calming effect.
8. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Some people experience significant COPD symptoms because they are overweight. When you are carrying too much weight, it puts added stress on your entire body, especially your respiratory system.
By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you can see an improvement in your COPD symptoms over time. You should feel short of breath less often and struggle less during physical activity.
9. Take Vitamin D
The final home remedy that you can try to help manage COPD is vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can increase inflammation throughout the body and lead to excess mucus production. For people with COPD, this can create more severe symptoms. Taking a vitamin D supplement allows you to resolve your deficiency and reduce COPD symptoms.
The Best Ways to Treat COPD
From essential oils to breathing exercises, there are many natural ways to help relieve COPD symptoms. And if these home remedies aren’t enough, there are other ways to approach COPD treatment.
More severe symptoms typically require professional medical treatments, including steroid medication and supplemental oxygen therapy. Regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, may also provide some relief for COPD symptoms.
If you feel that your COPD needs more extensive treatment, speak with your pulmonologist and primary physician about your options.
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This disorder is characterized by decreased airflow to and from the lungs. It is a progressive respiratory condition that can impact your ability to breathe properly. When you develop COPD, your body receives less oxygen than it needs to function properly.
What causes COPD? People develop COPD for several reasons, but smoking is one of the most common causes. Exposure to air pollution, genetics, and early childhood respiratory infections can all increase your risk of developing the disease later in life.
You may not know that COPD occurs in four distinct stages. Each of these stages produces different symptoms, and the treatment approaches vary depending on the stage of the disease.
The first stage of COPD is mild and produces very subtle symptoms, if any. During this stage, many people aren’t aware that they have COPD or that anything is wrong with their lung function. Some people mistake their symptoms for a simple flu or respiratory infection at this stage.
While symptoms are minor during the first stage of COPD, you may notice the following:
Increased mucus production
Shortness of breath with moderate exertion
Often, stage one COPD is diagnosed through an incidental finding on a routine diagnostic exam. Your doctor can perform a spirometry test during a yearly physical and find that your lung function is abnormal.
From there, they may order a pulmonary function test or PFT to assess your lung function with a FEV1 score. FEV1 measures your forced expiratory volume or the amount of air you breathe out when you exhale. In stage one, your FEV1 should be between 80 and 100 percent.
Treating Stage One COPD
In the first stage of COPD, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator as the first line of treatment. This is an inhaled medication that can help open up the airways and allow for increased airflow. They may also suggest lifestyle modifications, like quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.
Stage Two COPD is still relatively mild for most patients, but there is a slight increase in the severity and frequency of symptoms. Many people see a decrease in their activity levels and quality of life during this stage because their symptoms have become more noticeable and ongoing.
During the second stage, you can experience any combination of the following symptoms:
Increased mucus production
Shortness of breath with mild exertion
It is during this stage that most COPD patients are officially diagnosed because they seek an answer to their ongoing symptoms.
Your primary doctor may perform a preliminary spirometry test before referring you to a pulmonologist for a pulmonary function test. In stage two, a PFT will typically reveal an FEV1 score of 50 to 79 percent.
Treating Stage Two COPD
Treatment becomes pertinent when you are in the second stage of COPD. Your doctor will likely prescribe a bronchodilator medication to provide increased airflow and open up the airways. Steroids may also be provided to help ease your symptoms during flare-ups.
You may also start a pulmonary rehabilitation program. These programs are designed to further educate you on COPD and give you additional ways to manage the condition.
Stage three is considered to be the severe stage of COPD. It is during this stage that most patients find their quality of life significantly impacted, with a decreased ability to function. More extensive treatment methods are started during this time as the condition continues to progress in severity.
When you are in the third stage of COPD, you will likely experience the following symptoms and more:
Chronic shortness of breath
Excessive mucus production
Frequent respiratory infections
Pain or discomfort when taking a deep breath
Trouble getting a full breath
Swelling in the ankles
During stage three of COPD, many people find it difficult to perform their activities of daily living. You may find yourself too out of breath to complete daily chores, work duties, and more. Most patients are unable to exercise to any extent and experience extreme lethargy from even short periods of physical activity.
A pulmonary function test often shows the FEV1 to be at 30 to 50 percent during this stage.
Treating Stage Three COPD
Treatment options during stage three of COPD are very similar to stage two, but supplemental oxygen is added. You may also find yourself using prescription steroids more often due to frequent flare-ups or an increase in the severity of your symptoms.
Stage four is the most pronounced and severe stage of COPD. When you are in this stage, your ability to function is significantly diminished. Blood oxygen levels will be low, and you are now at an increased risk of developing heart failure or lung failure. Most people are completely dependent on oxygen at this point.
Symptoms of stage four COPD are very pronounced and seriously impact your quality of life. Many patients experience:
Difficulty breathing, even at rest
Heart palpitations or tachycardia
Extreme mucus production
Severely decreased airflow
Intense lethargy and fatigue
Inability to partake in any physical activity
In the fourth stage of COPD, you will experience frequent flare-ups that could be fatal if not immediately addressed. You will likely be entirely dependent on oxygen to get any oxygen intake. FEV1 readings at this stage are below 30 percent.
Treating Stage Four COPD
When you reach the fourth stage of COPD, extensive treatment options are required to maintain oxygen intake. Ongoing supplemental oxygen is necessary, and surgical intervention may be needed. These interventions include lung transplants or lung volume reduction surgery.
Seeking Treatment for COPD
From bronchodilators to surgical intervention, there are many ways to approach COPD in its different stages. In recent years, some patients have looked to regenerative medicine to alleviate COPD symptoms.
If you are struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder at any stage, speak with your pulmonologist about alternative treatment options.
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