COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, makes breathing very difficult. It’s caused by emphysema (damage to the air sacs), chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the breathing tubes), or both. COPD has four stages, and the further along the disease is, the worse the outcomes. It’s a life-threatening condition.

While COPD can be caused by long-term exposure to pollutants and lung-irritating chemicals, the most common cause is smoking. The best prevention is quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke. Read on to find the symptoms and stages of COPD and your treatment options.

When to See a Doctor

COPD can mimic other diseases, like asthma, tuberculosis, and others. You should see a doctor if you have a persistent cough or excess mucus. You should also call if you have chest tightness, shortness of breath, or wheezing, even if it’s only occasionally. The sooner you are evaluated, the sooner treatment can begin. Early treatment is the best chance for a good outcome.

The 4 Stages of COPD

Your doctor will perform some tests to determine how well your lungs function. If your doctor finds evidence of the disease, they will assign you to one of the stages of COPD:

  • Stage 1: Mild COPD. You may not even notice your lung function is declining in this stage. This is why it’s important to get checked out, even with mild symptoms.
  • Stage 2: Moderate COPD. You’ll have shortness of breath with exertion and may feel very tired after doing anything physical. You also might wheeze.
  • Stage 3: Severe COPD. You’ll often feel short of breath and may regularly have chest tightness, rapid breathing, dizziness, and cough.
  • Stage 4: Very severe COPD. Often referred to as “end-stage” COPD, it does not mean you will immediately die. However, it is life-threatenin, and you may often require emergency care. Your quality of life will be low, and you may lose a lot of weight or cough up blood.

Treatment and Management

How you and your doctor treat your COPD depends on the stage. For earlier stages, you may use inhalers. For mid-stages, you may require oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is exercises that improve lung function. For later stages, surgeries to remove pockets or parts of the lung may be necessary. Sometimes a full lung transplant is required.

It’s essential to have your flu and COVID vaccines because you are more at risk for pneumonia and respiratory failure complications. Try to avoid pollution, lung irritants, and anything to which you’re allergic. You should work with specialists to design a schedule of regular physical activities and improve your diet. Internal Medicine Diagnostic Center can diagnose and help you manage the different stages of COPD. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call today at 281-252-8600 to book your appointment.

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