The 4 Stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

stages of copd

Story at-a-glance -

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be classified in four stages depending on the severity of the condition. Knowing where you stand will be helpful in determining the right approach for your treatment
  • The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) came up with four stages to help increase the speed and accuracy of a diagnosis. Instead of focusing on spirometry alone, other factors are taken into consideration, such as symptoms and exacerbations

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be classified in four stages depending on the severity of the condition. Knowing where you stand will be helpful in determining the right approach for your treatment, saving you time and money in the long run.1 Previously , doctors didn’t follow a benchmark for determining the severity of COPD in patients. They would simply use the spirometer to determine one’s lung’s condition. Simply put, the lower your score on the test, the more severe the COPD.

However, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has since categorized the disease into four stages to help increase the speed and accuracy of a diagnosis. Instead of focusing on spirometry alone, other factors are taken into consideration, such as symptoms and exacerbations.2

Determining the Stages of COPD Using FEV1 and BODE Index

Before going into the different stages of COPD, you must learn the key component that helps lead to a successful diagnosis: FEV1, or “forced expiratory volume in one second.”3 Essentially, this unit of measurement is the maximum amount of air you can forcefully blow out of your lungs in one second, which is measured using a spirometer. Take note that it is generally used to help determine the COPD, not just a sole tool for confirming the disease.4

Another unit of measurement used in diagnosis is the BODE Index, which stands for:5

  • Body Mass
  • Obstruction of Airflow
  • Dyspnea
  • Exercise Capacity

In general, the BODE Index is used to determine how COPD affects your life. To determine your number, your body mass index (BMI) will be computed first. The second step is determining your FEV1 via a spirometer. The third step is determining your dyspnea to show how much shortness of breath affects your quality of life. The fourth step involves a six-minute walk test to show how much exercise tolerance and capacity you have.6

The 4 Stages of COPD

Once you have undergone the necessary tests, your doctor may be able to determine the stage of your COPD. The list below provides an overview for each segment:7

  • Grade 1 (Mild COPD): Mild COPD is generally marked with some airflow limitation, but you may be unaware of it. In most cases , no symptoms have appeared yet, or they are so minor that they may be attributed to other diseases. If symptoms do appear, it is mostly chronic coughing with some sputum. Most people rarely seek treatment at this stage.
  • Grade 2 (Moderate COPD): In moderate COPD, airflow limitation worsens and the classic symptoms of COPD become more apparent. Aside from coughing and sputum, you may experience shortness of breath after minor physical exertion.
  • Grade 3 (Severe COPD): If you’re diagnosed with Grade 3 COPD, the restriction in your airways is evident. There may be times you will experience an exacerbation of symptoms (commonly known as COPD exacerbation) as well as increased frequency and severity of coughing. Fatigue and chest discomfort become more common as well.
  • Grade 4 (Very Severe COPD): Being diagnosed with Grade 4 COPD means that your quality of life will be greatly impaired, and that your symptoms can range from serious to life-threatening. The risk of respiratory failure is also high, and there’s also a chance you may develop heart complications.

MORE ABOUT COPD

COPD: An Introduction

What Is COPD?

COPD Symptoms

COPD Causes

COPD Stages

Types of COPD

COPD Treatment

COPD Life Expectancy

COPD Prevention

COPD Diet

COPD FAQ

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