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The Stair Walker -> News and articles -> What Exactly Is COPD?


What exactly is COPD?

Estimated reading time 5 min. Published 21.01.2020

COPD is a respiratory disease that affects around 174.5 million people worldwide. It is estimated that this number will steadily increase because of higher smoking rates in the developing world as well as an increasing aging population.


The abbreviation stands for the term "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease". It is also called "chronic obstructive bronchitis" (COB). COPD is associated with both the terms "chronic bronchitis" and "pulmonary emphysema":

COPD is usually associated with smoking or pollution. Inhaling irritants ignites the bronchi, thickens their walls and increases mucus production. In the long term, the inflammation is responsible for the destruction of the pulmonary alveoli.

Globally seen, in 80-95% of cases smoking is the cause of COPD, but this is not the only risk factor.

There are these other risk factors:

- Indoor and outdoor air pollution, this cause is most common in low and middle income countries.

- Workplace exposure, particularly in the areas of mining, steel, construction and agriculture (inhalation of coal dust)

- Frequent infections of the lower respiratory tract during childhood.

- Certain genetic factors have been reported, e.g. B. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. This is a protein that protects the tissue against inflammation.

COPD is an active disease that is characterized by breathing problems. COPD patients usually have several symptoms.


The symptoms of COPD:

  • Intermittent daily cough (chronic cough)
  • General shortness of breath, chronic respiratory failure
  • Wheezing
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Physical capacity limitations
  • Extended expiration time
  • Trouble sleeping on your back
  • Blue coloring of the extremities and lips
  • Deformation of the fingers and nails
  • Etc.

The stages of COPD

There are different classifications of COPD stages. The most common is the spirometric classification of COPD. It is recognized by the High Health Authority (HAS). The spirometric classification is based on two indicators: "Maximum expiratory volume per second" (FEV1) and vital capacity (CV).

Maximum exhaled volume per second (FEV1) = the volume of air exhaled during the first second of an exhale after a deep breath.

Vital capacity (CV) = corresponds to the maximum volume of air in the lungs between inspiration and expiration.

We speak of COPD when the ratio between FEV1 and CV (FEV1 / CV) is less than 70%. Without disease, we lose at least 70% of the volume of our lungs in a second. The stages of the COPD are then determined based on the relationship between the patient's FEV1 and his predicted FEV1. The predicted value is defined based on criteria such as age, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Stage 1 (easy): FEV1 ≥ 80% predicted value

Stage 2 (moderate): 50% ≤ FEV1 <80% predicted value

Stage 3 (severe): 30% ≤ FEV1 <50% predicted value

Stage 4 (very severe): FEV1 <30% predicted value or FEV1 <50% predicted value (for severe chronic respiratory failure)

COPD treatment and management

It is not possible to completely cure COPD, but it is possible to slow the progression of the disease and improve symptoms. Depending on the stage of the disease, treatment generally includes medication, respiratory rehabilitation, vaccination, and oxygen treatment.

  • Taking medication: Medications such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators can be prescribed. With COPD, antibiotics can be given in conjunction with a bacterial infection of the bronchi.
  • Rehabilitation of the airways with a physiotherapist can help drain secretions, relieve shortness of breath, and improve exercise capacity.
  • It is advisable to get vaccinated against influenza and pneumococci to avoid the risk of lung infection. Infections are indeed aggravating factors for COPD.
  • Oxygen therapy is sometimes required in people with severe respiratory failure.

It is also important to quit smoking, avoid exposure to pollutants, and become active. Physical benefits retain the benefits of respiratory rehabilitation.


Keep your physical activity going with AssiStep

It is important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle if you have COPD. Climbing stairs is a great way to exercise at home. However, it often happens that people with COPD have difficulty walking up or down stairs. It is not uncommon to have to give up one floor of your home.

Given this problem, we often think of the electric stairlift. However, the electric stairlift encourages the user to be passive. AssiStep is an alternative to the stairlift, with which you can climb the stairs yourself and at the same time ensure your safety. Some of our users suffer from COPD such as Oddbjørn. Thanks to AssiStep, this former welder was able to regain his mobility on the stairs. He recommends AssiStep.

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