My mum recently got diagnosed with COPD, she is in her early 60s and now a none smoker although she used to smoke until the age of about 35.

During the test at the hospital she was "mild" COPD and then when the test was repeated after she had taken some kind of spray she was "low" COPD.

She doesnt seem too bothered by the diagnoses, i don't know if she doesnt want to think about it or just thinks it's an "age thing" but i think it's really serious. I'm really upset and worried and have no one to talk to it about.

Can someone please tell me what it all means in terms of life expectancy and disease progression.



12 Replies

  • Hi NorthernGal, of course you are worried, your mum is lucky to have a caring daughter like yourself. Im not medical, but to me it doesn't look too bad. Your mum has given up smoking early, huge congrats to her for that. People with mild copd can live pretty much a normal life, especially if your mum concentrates on exercise - this is crucial.

    Re progression, everybody's lungs deteriorate, and since your mum has given up smoking a long time ago, she is quite likely to deteriorate at a healthy person's rate. I can't comment on her life expectancy not being medical and not knowing anything about any other conditions she might have, but people with particularly mild copd frequently live a normal life and eventually die from something quite unrelated.

    Although its a bummer to have copd in the first place, your mum is lucky to be diagnosed at the mild stage as she can take control of her life with a good diet and regular exercise and a positive attitude, which it sounds like she has.

    You can always bring questions here, and also the BLF have a helpline in office hours which anyone can call - 03000 030 555.

    Best wishes to both of you. :)

  • Hi

    Thanks, for taking time to write such a detailed reply. Since i got the news, i've been imagining all kind of worse case scenarios most of which feature not being able to move out of a chair and needing oxygen 24/7.

    You made me feel so much better, thank you so much!

    I'll pass the number on to her.

    As a second question is COPD hereditary?

    I'm mind 30s never smoked but have similar symptoms to my mum

    I get asthma like symptoms during cardio exercise but have been tested for asthma and i don't have it ( the dr got me to blow into a tube took a reading and the gave me a spray and got me to repeat)

    I seem to cough a lot, only in short small bursts, which increases during exercise or a change in temperature

    Is there a simple test that can be done specifically for COPD?

  • It sounds like you had a peak flow test at the doctor. Spirometry is the standard lung function test needed for a diagnosis of copd. The FEV1 (how much breath you can force out in one second) is the key measurement. Unless you have a genetic form of copd called alpha-1-antitrypsin its unlikely though not impossible that anyone as young as yourself would have copd.

  • HI I agree with O2. If she is in her 60's with mild copd then there is no cause for alarm, though I understand your concern. To put it into perspective I was diagnosed with this in my mid 50's and my doctor said not to worry about it killing me as something else would get me first ie old age. Unless she wants to live to 120 that is :) x

  • Thanks

    Your comments really help.

    I think she will be bored before reaching 120 :-)

    Nice of your Dr to reassure you something else would get you first :-)

  • Well it is a chronic disease and therefore serious but all things being equal it doesn't usually progress quickly unless there are other health concerns too which might affect it.

    You can survive with a lung function as low as 6% and as she is mild she must be 80% or above. If she looks after herself there is no reason why she can't lead a near normal life for many years.

    I have 78% lung function and I do suffer from shortness of breath (sob) on exertion especially when climbing hills and steps and I do get chest infections easily and take longer to recover but then again you do when older anyway. They are really the only symptoms I get.

    Your mother must make sure she takes any meds religiously and if she thinks she has an exacerbation (chest infection, or general worsening of her symptoms) she must seek medical help asap as infections can further damage the lungs. I am sure your mum is sensible enough to do that.

    She will be around for a long time yet! Take care. x

  • Hi Northern Gal, I can fully understand why you are so worried - I care for my husband who has severe COPD and when he got his diagnosis about 12 years ago I was really worried (he is 67 now). The good news is - he is still here, still working and we still enjoy a great quality of life - just a little slower than most. As your Mum doesn't smoke anymore she wont be doing anymore damage to her lungs. I personally do not think you need to worry so much - as long as she is well in herself. Have a word with the helpline to put your mind at rest. Take good care, lots of love TAD xxx

  • Hi TAD

    Thank you for your comments and kind words

  • Hello Northern GalI. I was diagnosed with very severe emphysema Stage4 just over 4 years ago. I haven't got any worse since then. I work outside in a part time job I was doing before being diagnosed. I drive, go shopping and do other stuff, although a lot slower than I used to. I should think I'll die of old age rather than COPD. A local chap I know who is also at Stage 4 has had it for 30 years. He uses a mobility scooter, not from the COPD as such, but because in the old days they didn't realise steroids can lead to osteoporosis. His hips got it and that's why he uses his scooter to go shopping.

    I hope that relieves some of your anxiety.

    Feel free to ask anything you want and I hope one of us can answer it for you.

  • As it has all been said on here. Everyone will live until their last day! COPD is not a death sentence only a wake up call to look after your self. Look at life and enjoy it. If it means going a little slower to get some where, go slower.

    Be well

  • Thats a good expression Offcut, Im gonna need to emblazon it across my computer to remind me when Im feeling low xx

    'COPD is not a death sentence only a wake up call'

  • I was diagnosed at the age of 42 stage 2 for the next 3 years did really well gave up smoking then I got the flu and last year nearly every month I was on antibiotics.

    Your mum is doing the right thing giving up smoking it is also important to have her flu jab and yearly check up for her lung function test.

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