What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a broad term, which consists of various progressive lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some types of bronchiectasis. COPD is characterized by increasing breathlessness. The function of the lungs decline in COPD and the patient has increasing difficulty to breathe in COPD. As COPD is a progressive condition, its symptoms worsen with time and the damage to the lungs, which is permanent, also increases.
Stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has 4 stages ranging from mild to very severe. Stage-1 COPD is the mild stage and stage-2 COPD is the moderate stage. It is generally in stage-2 COPD that the noticeable symptoms of COPD first appear. With the progression of COPD, the severity of the symptoms increases. Stage-3 COPD is the severe stage, which causes considerable changes in symptoms, lung and overall health. The end or the extremely severe stage of this illness is stage-4 COPD. To know all about the last stage of COPD, its treatment, and end stage COPD life expectancy, go through the following piece of read.
Signs & Symptoms of Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD
Many patients of Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD experience significant airflow limitations, which in turn negatively affects their lives. They feel exhausted and breathless even on doing simple tasks, like making the bed, taking a shower and cooking a small meal. Lung function typically drops to 30% or less during Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD.
Oxygen is essential for proper functioning of the body. When one has low blood oxygen levels, it indicates that the cells, tissues and organs of their body are not getting enough oxygen. Many Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD patients suffer from such an oxygen inadequacy. The doctor can prescribe oxygen therapy to help these patients receive more oxygen.
COPD flare-ups can worsen the symptoms and make them life-threatening. For some people, certain conditions, which coexist with COPD, can also worsen during a flare-up. So, it is very important for patients to inform their doctor about any change in their symptoms. Also, the pulmonary and overall health of the patient would need to be monitored closely by the doctor to manage and prevent the flare ups.
Diagnosis of Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD
Before reaching this stage, most patients are likely to have already gone through multiple lung function tests and exercise tolerance tests, like 6-minute walk tests and pulmonary function tests. Like the previous stages of COPD, Stage-4 or End-Stage of this illness is also identified using the GOLD system and the BODE index. As per the GOLD System, Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD is taken to be the end-stage COPD with a lower FEVI, i.e. forced expiratory volume in one second and low blood oxygen levels. It is very important to see the doctor regularly during Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD.
Treatment or Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD
COPD is an incurable progressive disease. However, patients should work together with their doctor to create or modify a treatment plan which best suits their needs. Various treatment options like medications, alternatives therapies and lifestyle changes are available to help manage COPD. For managing stable Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD, the doctor can prescribe corticosteroids and inhalers like bronchodilators to ease and open the airways and help the patients breathe better. Steroids can also be prescribed to decrease inflammation and prevent flare-ups in COPD.
At times, a type of inhaler called a combination inhaler may also be needed to manage the symptoms of Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD. Combination medications are drugs which consist of a mix of two types of medicines, like a steroid and a bronchodilator in the same inhaler. In case of a COPD flare-up, the doctor can prescribe oral steroids, antibiotics or even hospitalization. Patients should report the changes in their symptoms or overall health to their doctor. They should also stay up-to-date on their flu and pneumonia vaccinations to decrease and prevent the occurrence of flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Even alternative treatments, like stem cell therapy, proved useful in improving mobility in many COPD patients. In fact, it also helped in reducing the use of oxygen therapy, improving breathing, and making the patient feel better after the therapy. Traditional medications help to manage COPD symptoms, but stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs and addressing disease progression.
Lifestyle Changes for Stage-4 or End Stage COPD
The doctor can also recommend certain lifestyle changes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. One of the most vital lifestyle changes that the Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD patients can make is to quit smoking. Smoke can irritate the lung and trigger COPD symptoms. Quitting smoking and staying smoke-free can be a very challenging task. One can take the help of treatments, smoking cessation tips and support groups to quit smoking successfully. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet proves helpful in improving the quality of life for people with Stage-4 or End-Stage COPD. Excess salt intake can worsen heart and COPD problems. So it is advisable for patients to substitute salt with other herbs and seasonings in their foods. People in any stage of COPD with mobility issues should practice mild exercises like walking, yoga and Tai Chi to improve their condition.
One can use a combination of medication, alternative therapies, and lifestyle changes to live a more active life. The prognosis and life expectancy for COPD patients vary and depend on the severity of COPD, other medical conditions and the general health of the patient. However, treatments can prove helpful for the patients at any stage of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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