Everything You Need to Know About the Four Stages of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of progressive lung diseases that cause restricted airflow and breathing problems. Among the conditions that contribute to COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the most common. It’s estimated that over 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with this disease, and millions more suffer in silence without the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Although COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time, its symptoms can be managed with the proper diagnosis and treatment. To explore any number of the options available for COPD treatment in Tampa, schedule a consultation with Dr. Ravikanth Vydyula. To learn everything you need you to know about the stages of COPD, continue reading this article. 

Related: How to Manage Your COPD

Stage 1: Mild COPD

When COPD first begins to manifest itself, you probably won’t even notice the early symptoms. This is because, by its very nature, COPD is very gradual and often takes years to show itself. If you’re not paying attention, it’s very easy to miss the signs and symptoms of the first stage.

That being said, the sooner you catch it, the better your chances will be of slowing the progression of the disease. The best thing to do at this stage is to watch out for anything like a nagging cough or shortness of breath during exertion. If your doctor is concerned that you may be developing COPD, he or she will perform a physical exam along with a spirometry test to measure your lung function. This is especially important if you have smoked at any point in your life or lived in an environment with poor air quality.

Stage 2: Moderate COPD

At this stage, you’ll start to notice symptoms that affect your day-to-day life, such as frequent or constant coughing that contains mucus, fatigue, shortness of breath, wheezing, and trouble sleeping. You’ll also experience flare-ups in which these symptoms intensify for a couple of days. This is the stage in which most people can no longer ignore their symptoms and will choose to visit the doctor. 

From there, you’ll undergo similar tests as you may have undergone in the first stage along with blood tests, exercise tests, imaging, and more. All of these are designed to reveal crucial information about how COPD is affecting your lung function and body as a whole. Your doctor will likely recommend breathing exercises, pulmonary rehab, medication, and bronchodilators to make breathing easier.

Related: What Are COPD Treatment Options? 

Stage 3: Severe

In stage three, you’ll experience a worsening of all of the symptoms discussed so far as well as new symptoms, such as chest tightness, swelling in your feet and legs, and frequent colds. It’s important to get medical help right away if you notice anything like a faster heartbeat than normal, your lips or fingernails turning blue, or difficulty speaking. Along with bronchodilators and pulmonary rehab, a lung specialist in Tampa may also recommend oxygen therapy, steroids, and antibiotics to manage your flare-ups and help you breathe easier. 

Stage 4: Very Severe

At the final stage of COPD, you’ll likely have spent years battling with the disease and the lung damage associated with it. As a result, your lung function and quality of life will be pretty low. Frequent flare-ups may begin to prove life-threatening. You may need surgery to remove damaged areas, have special valves implanted into your lungs, or have your lung replaced. 

Thankfully, no matter which stage you’re currently at, proper COPD treatment in Tampa, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes can go a long way. When you partner with a board-certified pulmonologist like Dr. Vydyula, you’ll receive round-the-clock care to monitor your condition, develop a treatment plan, and prescribe life-saving medication. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to appropriately manage your condition and maintain a high quality of life. 

To schedule a consultation with Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D.,  a lung specialist in Tampa, please request an appointment today.

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