Life expectancy for more than 80 percent of people with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is less than four years, according to About. COPD limits air flow to the lungs and gets worse over time. It is caused by inflammation resulting from cigarette smoke, chemicals and other irritants.
Treatment helps even at advanced stages of the disease, notes WebMD. Quitting smoking is important for those who smoke. Patients should receive flu and pneumonia vaccines to lower the risk of infections, and drugs that make breathing easier are available. Even light exercise can improve shortness of breath by using the lungs to their full capacity. In later stages of the disease, use of oxygen at home helps people breathe comfortably.