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How painful is death from COPD?

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Quick Answer

Patients in the final stages of COPD typically experience significant discomfort due to shortness of breath, severe cough, excess secretions and associated muscle pain. Difficulty breathing also leads to severe anxiety and agitation in many patients, according to RT Magazine. However, because pain is subjective, it is difficult to generalize as to the amount of pain experienced by any one individual, explains an article on PubMed.org.

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When a patient is dying from COPD, doctors prescribe medicines to alleviate the his symptoms to the greatest extent possible. For example, they give bronchodilators to ease bronchospasm and oral opiates, such as morphine, to ease breathing and reduce pain. If the patient is retaining fluid due to associated heart disease, they sometimes prescribe diuretics as well. Doctors also may prescribe benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety and the antipsychotic medicine phenothiazine for severe agitation, states to RT Magazine.

The diagnosis of COPD encompasses several conditions, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that diminish lung capacity over time, according to Healthline. The disease progresses slowly through four stages, which are marked by increasing symptom severity and a decrease in lung function as measured by the patient's forced expiratory volume, or FEV1. When the FEV1 falls below 35 percent the patient has end-stage COPD. Over half of patients with end-stage COPD die within four years.

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