The 4 Stages of COPD and Why Early Detection Helps

Heard of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease? There are four recognized stages of COPD progression.  

Early intervention is crucial to the successful treatment of the disease. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the US. 3.2 million people died in 2015 worldwide from COPD. In the US, 16 million people have been diagnosed, but many more people are living with it and do not know. 

While COPD is not curable, it is treatable and preventable. Earlier stages of the disease are much easier to treat and keep a good quality of life. Doctors use a classification system called the GOLD staging or grading system to label the disease progression. 

GOLD System

The GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) system recognizes four stages of COPD. GOLD looks at many different aspects of your COPD and labels how severe your COPD is. Your current grade will determine what treatments you need to receive. 

Stage I - Early Stage

The first signs of COPD can go unnoticed, as they can take years to show themselves. If you are a smoker, have smoked in the past, or have had excessive exposure to other airborne pollutants, you will want to be aware of these initial symptoms. Once obvious symptoms appear, lung damage is already likely. Early symptoms often include shortness of breath and a dry cough. 

To test for COPD, doctors may use a spirometry test, x-rays, blood tests, and other methods. You should keep up with flu and pneumonia shots, exercise frequently, improve nutrition, and stop smoking (if you smoke). We understand that smoking is not an easy habit to drop, but even gradually reducing your usage is a start at building better habits. You should also be aware of any irritants or pollutants that could trigger COPD flare-ups. 

Stage II - Moderate Stage

Stage 2 symptoms also include chronic coughing with mucus, shortness of breath when doing simple tasks, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and wheezing. 

Stage III - Severe Stage

If you have COPD and are in Stage 3, you will have more flare-ups, your cough will worsen, and experience shortness of breath. You may get colds more often, your feet, ankles, and legs can swell, a tight feeling in your chest, unable to take deep breaths, wheezing, and other breathing problems when conducting simple tasks. 

Stage IV - Very Severe

In Stage 4, you will experience the same symptoms but on a very severe level and more often. You may develop a condition called chronic respiratory failure. You may hear a crackling sound as you inhale, experience constant wheezing, and exhaling takes a long time. 

A person living with COPD should work with their doctor as their COPD advances to make sure sufficient treatment is given. It is essential to monitor the progression through the stages of COPD closely so that doctors can adapt the treatment accordingly. 

O2 Assist Can Help You Manage Your COPD 

Oxygen concentrators play a significant role in your COPD treatment plan. At O2 Assist, we offer portable and home oxygen concentrators to fit your needs. Get in touch with us to learn more about our products and how they can enhance your life.