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COPD is divided according to its severity into four stages. Staging of COPD helps doctors to determine the treatment approach for the disease. In this article we will describe stages of COPD and accompanying symptoms of each stage.

COPD Overview

COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease marked by difficulty breathing due to narrowing of the airways. COPD may result out of one of lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma. However, it is most commonly caused by both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

The main risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is long-term heavy smoking. In fact, it is the leading cause of the disease. Different airway irritants like air pollutants, certain gases and fumes as well as secondhand smoke can also cause COPD. In some people, GERD or acid reflux disease can be a cause of COPD. Finally, in small number of patients this disease occurs due to some genetic disorders.

Stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are determined with the help of a lung function test called spirometry. Spirometry measures lung volume by amount of air blown out into the hose of the machine, called a spirometer.

Stages of COPD

Stage I / Mild COPD

This is the first stage of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and it can be asymptomatic or cause symptoms of chronic cough with mucus. Lung function is slightly decreased and the condition usually goes unrecognized.

Stage II / Moderate COPDIn this stage obstruction of airflow in the lungs is increased. Stage II of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease causes shortness of breath with exertion and chronic cough with a lot of mucus. At this stage a patient is aware of his/her respiratory symptoms and seeks medical help.

Stage III / Severe COPDThis stage of COPD is characterized by more severe shortness of breath and even more restricted airflow to the lungs. A patient commonly experiences COPD exacerbations and decrease in activity tolerance. At this stage fatigue, weight loss, decreased physical and mental strength also occur. Patients with stage III COPD usually require hospitalization. Stage IV / Very Severe COPD

This is the final stage of COPD in which the affected person suffers severe limitation of airflow in the lungs. At this stage COPD exacerbations can be life-threatening. The disease considerably affects quality of life due to severe shortness of breath even at rest and chronic respiratory failure. Weight loss, edema, chronic cough, cyanosis and confusion are also present at this stage. Patients require chronic oxygen therapy due to respiratory failure. This stage may lead to heart complications and eventually death.

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