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What Are The 4 Stages of COPD?

What Are The 4 Stages of COPD?
Akanksha Nigam

Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (COPD) is a long-term, chronic lung disease that progresses over time and is characterized by constant cough and shortness of breath. 

According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoking is the main cause of 85-90% of COPD cases.  When a cigarette burns, it releases more than 7000 chemicals, many of which are harmful. These toxins weaken the lungs’  defenses against infections, narrow air passages, cause swelling in the air tubes, and destroy the air sacs. All of which contribute to COPD.

Long-term exposure to air pollution, fumes, dust, and second-hand smoke cause lung congestion which is also a probable cause of COPD.

Early detection is critical to gauge the progression of the disease and avoid complications. Doctors use a GOLD criterion to judge the severity of the condition.

There are four stages of COPD: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. Your physician will conduct a spirometry, a breathing test that determines the stages of COPD. This test assesses lung function by measuring how much air you can easily breathe in and out and how quickly you exhale.

It is recommended that people with COPD should stay up-to-date with their yearly flu shots and pneumonia vaccines to prevent complications.

What Are The 4 Stages Of COPD?

Stage 1: Mild COPD

Shortness of breath during or after light physical activity and an ongoing cough are the main symptoms of stage 1 COPD.  These symptoms are so mild that you may not notice them at first. Although the symptoms can be easy to miss, stage 1 COPD still damages the lungs. One of the most important things to do is to quit smoking to protect your lungs from further harm.

Your doctor may also prescribe bronchodilator medication which is taken with an inhaler to relax airway muscles. These medicines may have side effects like dry mouth, dizziness, runny nose, tremors, and throat irritation.

Contact your doctor if you experience an allergic reaction or severe side effects like irregular heart rate or blurry vision.

Stage 2: Moderate COPD  

The symptoms of stage 1 intensify in stage 2 COPD. Shortness of breath, coughing, and mucus production increase, and you may experience other symptoms of stage 2 COPD, like trouble sleeping, wheezing, and fatigue.

Stage 2 COPD may be the first time some become aware of COPD and seek treatment. Your doctor may prescribe bronchodilator medicines and may even suggest pulmonary rehab.

According to the American Lung Association, pulmonary rehab is a program designed to increase awareness about your lungs and lung disease. It includes exercises, nutrition tips, breathing techniques, and coping strategies. Classes are offered in a support group setting to meet others suffering from the same condition.

Stage 3: Severe COPD

Stage 3 COPD impacts the quality of life significantly. Your lungs start to feel the pressure to breathe in more air as the air sacs continue to weaken. It becomes difficult to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Symptoms of previous stages, shortness of breath and coughing, get worse, and mucus becomes thicker.

You may also experience the following symptoms of stage 3 COPD:

  1. Extreme weakness
  2. Confusion or forgetfulness
  3. Swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
  4. Tightness in the chest
  5. More frequent chest infections

There may also be times when your symptoms suddenly become severe, and there is a drastic change in lung function. These are called flare-ups. You may feel more mucus blocking your bronchial tubes, and the muscles around your airways become narrower.

Your doctor will help you develop a plan to manage these flare-ups, including prescribing medicines to thin and loosen mucus. The frequency of your doctor visits may also increase.

Stage 4: Very Severe COPD 

Stage 4 COPD, the end stage, is the worst of all. All symptoms intensity to their maximum potential, and any activity will make you feel short of breath and tighten your chest. Stage 4 significantly limits your mobility. Hospitalization for obstructed breathing, lung infection, sudden flare-ups, or lung failure is common in this stage and may prove fatal. You are also at a higher risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. 

Other symptoms of end-stage COPD include:

  1. A crackling sound when you breathe
  2. Barrel chest
  3. Disorientation
  4. An irregular or fast heartbeat
  5. Weight loss
  6. Pulmonary hypertension affects your lungs and the heart

Pulmonary rehab, supplemental oxygen, and steroids are some ways of treating severe COPD symptoms. Supplemental oxygen provides oxygen to your lungs to increase your tolerance during physical activities. A nasal cannula is another way to deliver oxygen to the lungs.

Lung surgery is the last option and requires that the patient has quit smoking and must be otherwise healthy and strong. Pulmonary rehab and lung function tests also help determine eligibility for surgery.  

Although COPD cannot be cured, there are ways to treat this disease, using oxygen therapy and other at-home products to help cough up mucus and ease tightness in your chest.

Where To Buy Products For COPD?

HPFY hosts a wide range of products to help with respiratory issues. Some of our best-sellers are:

1. Kaz Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler

FSA Eligible Items FSA Approved

Get comforting sinus relief from allergies, congestion, and colds with a steady,  targeted flow of steam directly in the nose and throat. Inhaling steam for 5 to 15 minutes  2-3 times a day helps to provide relief.

Features of Kaz Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler

  • Enables user to breathe better and sleep peacefully
  • Option to control steam level and temperature
  • Soft facial hood fits facial contour comfortably
  • Compact, lightweight, and portable
Kaz Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler



2. Roscoe Medical Portable Suction Machine

Effectively removes respiratory fluids. This lightweight and compact suction machine is portable and applies the right amount of suction pressure without discomfort.  

Features of Roscoe Medical Portable Suction Machine

  • Variable vacuum control
  • Replaceable in-line bacteria filter
  • Durable and portable
  • Includes a 1000cc collection bottle
Roscoe Medical Portable Suction Machine



3. Philips Respironics InnoSpire Essence Nebulizer System

FSA Eligible Items FSA Approved

An economical and effective choice for treating respiratory problems. This nebulizer machine provides consistent aerosol medication delivery in a short span and offers long-lasting relief. The SideStream nebulizer with Active Venturi System provides additional airflow for faster drug delivery.

Features of Philips Respironics InnoSpire Essence Nebulizer System

  • Sleek and attractive design
  • Easy-to-attach tubing for arthritic patients
  • Quick and fast treatment
  • Lightweight and FSA approved
Philips Respironics InnoSpire Essence Nebulizer System



4. Salter Style 1600 Series Adult Clear Nasal Oxygen Cannula

FSA Eligible Items FSA Approved

Designed to be comfortable for long-term use with curved tubing that fits on the upper lip and anatomically curved and tapered nasal prongs. The 3-channel safety tubing prevents any disruption in the flow of oxygen.  

Features of Salter Style 1600 Series Adult Clear Nasal Oxygen Cannula

  • Does not restrict mobility
  • The over-the-ear style secures positioning
  • Comfortable for long-term use
  • Latex-free
  • FSA Approved
Salter Style 1600 Series Adult Clear Nasal Oxygen Cannula



COPD is a life-threatening disease that gets worse as the COPD stages increase. Early recognition goes a long way to treating this condition and preventing complications. Avoid smoking and perform breathing exercises to keep your lungs healthy. If you find that you are regularly falling short of breath or have a long-lasting cough, consult your healthcare provider immediately.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Akanksha Nigam

Akanksha Nigam

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Akanksha Nigam has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. With a Masters Degree in Finance, she began her Marketing career in the banking industry. However, her interest in human ...

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