What Are The 4 Stages Of COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is commonly known as COPD. This condition ranks as the third leading cause of death globally, as per the experts. 

COPD is a chronic and progressive lung condition causing permanent damage to the lungs. This damage leads to issues in breathing, reduced oxygen levels, and breathlessness, which impacts the ability to perform everyday activities. 

Let’s know what exactly COPD is, and the various stages, and explore treatment options and pulmonary rehabilitation for managing this condition. 

What is COPD?  

Are you aware that an estimated 300 million people worldwide are believed to be affected by COPD? But what exactly is it? 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a range of lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Such issues shall all lead to the narrowing of airways, which makes the exhalation of air from the lungs more challenging. The issue of COPD is a persistent ailment that progressively worsens over time. 

How Is COPD Diagnosed at Each Stage? 

Diagnosing COPD issue is a nuanced process, involving various techniques employed by pulmonologists or healthcare providers. Some of the other assessment tools for COPD include lung function tests, exercise testing, quality-of-life evaluations, and imaging examinations. 

Among all other pivotal diagnostic tests for COPD, one is the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) test. This test is conducted with a device called a spirometer; this test measures the volume of air forcefully exhaled. 

The obtained FEV1 value is then compared to a predicted value which is calculated based on factors like sex, age, height, and weight. The resulting percentage is a key indicator. The lower level of the actual FEV1 is then compared to the predicted value, which is lower than the percentage. 

This percentage is known to be instrumental for categorizing COPD stages while using the staging system mentioned below. Below mentioned is an overview of such specific staging based on FEV1 percentages: 

4 Stages Of COPD  

COPD Stage 1: Early  

Stage 1 of COPD is categorized as mild, and symptoms related to lung function issues emerge. If your Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1) falls between 80 and 100 percent of the expected value, the doctor shall diagnose you with stage 1 COPD. 

Individuals with stage 1 on their spirometry test might not experience noticeable symptoms. However, some might exhibit flu-like symptoms, including cough and enhanced mucus production. As these early COPD symptoms might resemble those of the flu, it is advisable to seek a medical checkup if the symptoms persist beyond a few days. 

For Stage 1 COPD, your doctor might recommend a bronchodilator solution Albuterol to open up your lung airways. Albuterol is usually administered through an inhaler or nebulizer. The medications aim to improve airflow. 

Additionally, your doctor might also suggest getting flu and pneumonia vaccines to prevent those respiratory-related illnesses from exacerbating your symptoms. 

Initiating lifestyle changes might lead to COPD development which can potentially slow down its progression. Since many individuals with COPD might have a history of smoking, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are needed steps for enhancing the prognosis of the disease. 

COPD Stage 2: Mild  

Stage 2 of COPD condition is classified as moderate. This condition encompasses a range from mild to moderate severity. When your Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1) falls within the range of 50 to 79 percent of your expected value, you are diagnosed to be in stage 2 of COPD. 

Symptoms tend to intensify right from stage 1 to stage 2. Coughing and mucus production might be enhanced, and you might experience shortness of breath while walking or exercising. It is at this juncture that individuals might usually recognize an issue and seek proper medical attention. 

Patients who are under stage 2 COPD might be prescribed bronchodilator medications like Albuterol to enhance lung airflow. Additionally, the doctor might recommend pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a program that is well-aimed at increasing your understanding of your condition. Typically, the issue is conducted in a group setting, and this program provides complete valuable insights into managing COPD effectively. 

COPD Stage 3: Severe 

In stage 3, the COPD issue advances to a severe level, and your forced expiratory volume falls within the range of 30 to 50 percent of your expected value. Daily home tasks may be challenging, and leaving the house could be a considerable struggle. 

Symptoms: 

At stage 3, you might encounter more frequent flare-ups. Other issues shall be heightened shortness of breath and enhanced coughing. Fatigue may set in more rapidly than in those previous stages. Additionally, some of the new symptoms like difficulty breathing deeply, wheezing, swollen ankles, chest tightness, and susceptibility to frequent sickness or colds might manifest. 

Treatment: 

Treatment options for stage 3 COPD closely resemble those in stage 2. However, the likelihood of needed oxygen therapy is enhanced at this stage for managing respiratory challenges effectively. 

COPD Stage 4: Very severe  

Considered the most severe stage, Stage 4 is characterized by a forced expiratory volume of less than 30% of the norm, which is accompanied by low blood oxygen levels. 

Symptoms: 

Stage 4 poses a life-threatening risk, potentially leading to heart or lung failure. Frequent severe flare-ups are just likely, and breathing difficulties may persist even during sleep. 

Treatment: 

Treatment approaches in Stage 4 remain akin to those in earlier stages. Additionally, the doctor might propose lung surgery as a viable option for enhancing the act of breathing. Surgical interventions might all involve a lung transplant, lung volume reduction surgery, or bullectomy. 

Is There An End Stage To COPD? 

Achieving a grade 4 score on your spirometry test marks the highest level attainable, often referred to as the end-stage of COPD. At this point, many individuals experience a significantly diminished quality of life, and flare-ups of symptoms can pose a fatal risk. 

Receiving the Necessary Treatment to Slow COPD Progression 

Adhering to the treatment plan concerning the doctor’s crucial prevention of COPD flare-ups and impeding the disease’s progression. 

Various treatment options are available for COPD patients, including: 

Conclusion 

COPD staging has evolved beyond the traditional classification of stages 1 to 4 based solely on lung function decline. Currently, it is well approached and involves combining lung function test results with subjective assessments of symptom severity to gauge COPD risk. 

Quitting smoking shall remain the most crucial step for enhancing life expectancy and overall well-being following a COPD diagnosis. 

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