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Severe COPD is considered to be the final stage of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD may be the most common type of lung disorder, and it usually occurs due to chronic inflammation of the lungs or lung damage. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema can contribute to COPD. During the fourth stage of this condition, breathing may be so difficult that even the most minor of activities, such as washing the face, may lead to shortness of breath. Heart and lung failure are among the complications common to the final stage of COPD.
COPD is believed to affect people who smoke tobacco more often than others, although tobacco smoking alone does not always cause the disease. Exposure to chemical fumes, pollution, and even cooking gas can contribute to this illness. People with COPD may experience frequent lung infections, chronic fatigue, and a cough that produces phlegm. Symptoms of this disease typically appear and progress slowly. Treatment for the initial stages of the disease typically involves the use of inhaled steroids and bronchiodilators, as well as the removal of irritants such as smoke and cold air from the home environment.
When severe COPD sets in, the patient normally begins to experience very severe COPD symptoms, including severe difficulty breathing. At this point, the lung tissue may have suffered so much damage that any physical activity at all causes shortness of breath. The lungs are usually able to absorb only minimal amounts of oxygen from the air. Severe COPD is usually accompanied by increasing weakness in the heart muscle, as it struggles to continue pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body.
People with severe COPD may experience abnormal growth of the right side of the heart, because lung damage has forced the right ventricle to pump harder and harder in order to supply the body with oxygen-rich blood. This abnormal enlargement of the cardiac muscle can eventually cause heart failure. Fluid can also build up in the lungs, leading to pulmonary edema.
At this stage of COPD, oxygen therapy may be combined with inhaled medications to help ensure that the damaged lungs are taking in enough oxygen. If lung damage is severe, the damaged tissue may be surgically removed. In the most severe cases, a lung transplant may be necessary.