Stages of COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is used to describe chronic bronchitis, emphysema,or both. When you are suffering from COPD, the airflow to your lungs is obstructed. This condition is most common in smokers. The symptoms include breathlessness and cough. Patients are given inhalers that they can use to ease the symptoms. The best treatment for COPD is to quit smoking.Other forms of treatments include antibiotics, steroids, oxygen, antibioticsas well as mucolytic medicines. These medications are mostly prescribed in severe cases or when the symptoms worsen.

What You Should Know About COPD

In order to fully understand what COPD is all about, it is importantto knowhow the lungs work. When you breathe in air, it is taken down through the windpipe to the lungs, which are also referred to the bronchial tubes or airways. Within the lungs, there are thousands of smaller tubes known as the bronchioles which have round-like air sacs at the ends. These air sacs are known as alveoli.

On the walls of the air sacs are capillaries (small blood vessels) which are all involved in the circulation of air. When air reaches these air sacs, oxygen is transported through the sacs’ walls to the capillaries. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide is transported from the capillaries to the air sacs in a process referred to as gas exchange.

The airways and air sacs have the ability to stretch. Whenever you breathe in, all air sacs fill up with air and inflate like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the sacs deflate and the air is pouched outwards.

When you have COPD, there is limited air flowing inside and outside the airways because of the following reasons:

•       Air sacs and airways stop being elastic.

•       The walls between air sacs are destroyed.

•       Walls of the airways become inflamed and thick.

•       The airway produces too much mucus, which leads to clogging.

What Are the Stages of COPD?

According to Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), COPD severity can be placed in four categories and is classified according to spirometric measures. They are categorized as GOLD 1, mild; GOLD 2, moderate; GOLD 3, severe; as well as GOLD IV, very severe.

Stage 1: Mild COPD

When you are suffering from mild COPD, it can be hard to notice that the lung function is deteriorating. In this stage, there is mild flow of air into the lungs, and the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEVI) is greater than or equal to 80% of the normal value with FVC (forced vital capacity)/FEVI that is less than 70%. In stage 1, you may not experience ant symptoms of COPD or you may experience chronic cough and excess mucus. People with stage 1 COPD are unlikely to associate the symptoms experienced with COPD and will, therefore, not necessarily seek treatment.

Stage 2: Moderate COPD

When you are suffering from stage 2 COPD, the limitations of air flow becomes worse, and symptoms may become noticeable. More importantly, you will begin to experience cough, shortness of breath and increased production of sputum.  The FEVI drops to between 50% and 79% of the normal value while the FEVI/FVC becomes less than 70%. In stage 2 COPD, most people can notice some problem and seek medical treatment.

Stage 3: Severe COPD

This is the stage when the condition becomes severe, and the limitation of airflow is very significant. There is severe shortness of breath and exacerbation of COPD begins. The FEVI is predicted to be between 30% and 49%, and the FEVI/FVC is less than 70%. Once you reach stage 3 of COPD, the body’s tolerance to activity becomes noticeable, and there is an increase in fatigue.

Stage 4: Very Severe COPD

By the time you reach this stage, the quality of life you experience is greatly impaired, and the COPD exacerbations are fatal. Also referred to as the end stage of COPD, stage 4 is characterized by severe airflow limitation and FEVI is less that 30% while the FEVI/FVC is less than 70%. At this stage, chronic respiratory failure is present and can lead to possible heart complications like cor pulmonale and/or eventually death.

When you are diagnosed with stage 4 COPD, it is easy to fall into depression as you fear for the worst. While COPD is not anything anyone would wish on themselves, regardless of the stage, learning that you may be living in your final life stage can be frightening. It is, therefore, very important for you to learn thatthere are certain things one can do to prolong life and hence, take away the fear associated with stage 4 of COPD.

What Can Be Done to Prevent COPD Becoming Worse?

Taking great care of oneself is a great way of managing a chronic health condition. It is more important for you to avoid giving up on life simply because you have COPD. When you are diagnosed with this life threatening disease, start taking action immediately to manage the condition at any stage and prevent it from worsening.

1.     Quit Smoking

Kicking the smoking habit is the first thing you should do when diagnosed with COPD. This helps in slowing down the decline in lung function, which will control the condition.

2.     Avoid Irritants

Avoid indirect or direct exposure to airway irritants such as smoke, tobacco, occupational exposure to dust or harsh chemicals as well as pollution.

3.     Exercise Regularly

By remaining active, you maintain your weight and keep strong, which can cripple the effects of COPD.

4.     Eat Healthy Foods

Most COPD patients will require ten times the normal energy to breathe. Ensure that you eat enough calories and the right types of food.

5.     Take Your Treatment Seriously

Your treatment is very important. It helps in easing the symptoms and allows you to lead a comfortable and normal life. Ensure you stick to it.

Watch this video to further understand COPD: