Blog Section

The Four Stages of COPD

The Four Stages of COPD

Do you or a loved one have COPD? Or, are you started to be out of breath regularly? 12 Million Americans are affected by COPD, which is one of the most common chronic illness diagnoses according to the NIH.

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. It not currently curable, but it is manageable, and many patients have productive lives for years after their diagnosis.


Smoking is definitely involved in the disease of COPD, but not all COPD patients are smokers. Not all smokers get COPD. Genetic and environmental factors are also involved. Some other factors include air pollution and chemicals and fumes in the workplace.


Here are some of the main symptoms of COPD, according to the COPD Foundation:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Frequent coughing (with and without mucus)
  • Wheezing

If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care practice.


The most common chronic lung conditions that fall under COPD are:

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Non-reversible asthma

This disease can be successfully treated and managed. The key is to come up with a management plan with your primary care practice and lung specialists.

Stages of COPD

COPD gets worse over time. The Lung Institute has identified four stages of progression, which are based on symptoms and lung function:

  1. Mild

The first signs of COPD may be slight limitations in breathing. Patients often overlook these early warning signs.

  1. Moderate

This stage usually brings more limited breathing along with chronic coughing and mucus production.

  1. Severe

Stage three brings a significant disruption to a patient’s lives as breathing becomes more limited, and daily tasks become harder.

  1. Very severe (also known as end-stage COPD)

This stage is marked by very low blood oxygen and restricted airflow. When patients can’t get enough oxygen, breathing issues become life-threatening, and supplemental oxygen often comes into play.


Lung function tests are the main way of diagnosing COPD condition. Your doctor uses a tool called the spirometer to measure the amount of air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. Chest X-rays or CT scans can also be useful tools for identifying emphysema, one of the leading illnesses within the COPD umbrella.


Never starting to smoke or quitting smoking is the best approach you can take to prevent COPD. Here are some other prevention tips:

  • Avoid pollutants in the workplace
  • Take safety precautions in the workplace like wearing a mask
  • Regular exercise
  • A healthy diet and weight
  • Regular check-ups


The most essential treatment tool for COPD is to stop smoking immediately. Other tools include medications and referrals to specialized therapists. Other treatments can include:

  • Medications
  • Oral steroids with antibiotics when infections occur
  • Supplemental oxygen when oxygen levels become low.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation programs including exercise, breathing techniques, and nutrition.

Make an appointment if you or a family member wants to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and valuable tests.

Hillandale Primary Care & Laser Center is owned and operated by Dr. Saira Tariq Niaz, who is a board-certified family physician with offices in Lithonia and Lawrenceville, Georgia. Hillandale Primary Care provides patient-focused, compassionate healthcare of the highest quality to each patient and delivers acute and chronic healthcare to patients of all ages. We are passionate about preventive medicine and encourage each of our patients to take an active role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Call today at 770.322-9660 or request an appointment.