Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that tends to get worse over time. Although there is no cure, it can be managed with lifestyle changes, especially when diagnosed early. Here are the four main stages you need to be aware of:
Stage 1 – Mild: In this stage, most people have a continuous cough with mucus. Lung function is still pretty high, around 80 percent or better.
Stage 2 – Moderate: The cough becomes chronic and produces more mucus. Along with the cough, shortness of breath with physical activity like exercise will also be present, and occasional COPD flare ups. Lung function decreases anywhere between 79 to 50 percent.
Stage 3 – Severe: The symptoms are similar to Stage 2, but more pronounced. There is still a chronic cough, but now shortness of breath happens more often and even when the person isn’t exercising. In fact, the ability to exercise may decrease because of extreme fatigue. Lung function may be as low as 30 percent.
Stage 4 – Very Severe: There is a chronic cough with lots of mucus and severe shortness of breath. Lung function is usually less than 30 percent, making breathing very difficult. This can lead to weight loss, blue tint to the skin and fluid build up in the feet and legs (a condition known as edema). COPD flare ups at this stage can be life threatening. Patients in this stage require an oxygen tank and are at high risk for respiratory failure.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COPD, consult your doctor immediately for proper lung function testing and diagnosis.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org COPD center for more articles.