COPD Signs and Symptoms at Different Stages

COPD Signs and Symptoms

A lot of people are wondering what is COPD? Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, is a condition in which breathing becomes more and more labored over time. Typically, it is caused by a combination of smoking related illnesses, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Given the progressive nature of the condition, COPD signs and symptoms worsen as the disease becomes worse. The condition is divided into stages like many progressive illnesses are, alongside emphysema, one of the biggest contributors to the development of the condition.

Pulmonary emphysema is a lung disease that negatively affects the sacs of air, called alveoli, which are found in the lungs. The condition can lead to the walls of these sacs becoming destroyed, stretched or collapsed and the sacs themselves becoming over inflated, enlarged or narrowed. It is in this way that pulmonary emphysema severely impacts the ability to breathe. Emphysema is also graded in severity in stages, similarly to those used to measure COPD signs and symptoms, as the disease worsens.

Emphysema stages are based on lung function primarily however, not symptoms. In stage I emphysema, lung function is at 80% or above. In stage II, lung function is reduced to between 50 and 80 percent of normal ability. In stage III emphysema, the lungs function at between 30 and 50 percent of their normal function. The last and most advanced of the emphysema stages is the final stage IV, where lung function is diminished to between ten and thirty percent of normal capacity, where advanced forms of the disease like bullous emphysema may occur.

While chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder staging is relevant to symptoms in terms of progression, in itself, emphysema symptoms are not related necessarily to the stage of the illness. Sometimes, the symptoms of the condition are related to the region of the lungs that is primarily affected. For instance, centrilobular emphysema may display worse symptoms than paraseptal emphysema, because while the latter involves the airway structures, the ability to breathe is often less severely impacted than in the case of the former, which affects the upper portion of the lungs. Regardless of location however, the condition exhibits COPD signs and symptoms. The very most common of all emphysema symptoms is simply a reduced ability to breathe.

Unfortunately, hemoptysis can occur as a symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and typically this symptom appears as a complication of chronic bronchitis. Hemoptysis refers to coughing up blood, spitting up blood or finding streaks or tinges of blood in the sputum, and it occurs in later stages of chronic bronchitis, where the disease has occurred for many years or has recurred frequently. Together, these conditions make up COPD, and thus are relevant to the staging of the condition.

COPD is staged in four categories. Each one is relative to COPD signs and symptoms. In the mildest form, stage one, sufferers may experience a chronic and mucus producing cough, and retain above 80% of their lung function. In stage two, lung function is reduced to between half and 79%, and symptoms include increased mucus and coughing, shortness of breath upon physical exertion and worsening symptom flare ups on occasion. Stage three refers to a worsening of the COPD signs and symptoms found in stage two and includes many more flare ups. Additionally in stage three, lung function is further reduced, with function maintaining between 30 and 49%. The advanced stage of COPD, stage four, can include flare ups that are life threatening. In addition, serious breathing problems are chronic in this stage, as lung function is reduced below 29%. Weight loss, changes to skin color and edema can also occur in stage four.

There is no cure for COPD, and treatment options are limited. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the progression of the disease as well as greatly improves quality of life. Increasing physical activity and improving overall health are critical to living with COPD, and the earlier these changes are implemented, the longer it will take for the disease to progress to its advanced stages.