The four stages of COPD are "at risk," mild, moderate, and severe. In order to determine if someone has this condition and which stage he or she is in, a healthcare provider generally uses a breathing test called spirometry. The symptoms vary for each of the stages, but generally include increasing amounts of coughing, sputum production, and difficulty breathing.
An Overview of COPD Stages
In order to determine which of the COPD stages a person is in, the doctor will use a breathing test called spirometry. This test is easy and painless and shows how well your lungs work. You breathe hard into a large hose connected to a machine called a spirometer. When you breathe out, the spirometer measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs after taking a deep breath.
Spirometry is the most sensitive and commonly used test of lung functions. It can detect COPD long before you have significant symptoms.
What Are the Stages of COPD?
Based on the spirometry test, your doctor can determine if you have COPD and how severe it is.
The various COPD stages include:
- At risk
- Mild COPD
- Moderate COPD
- Severe COPD.
In the at-risk stage, the breathing test is normal, but there is a possibility of developing COPD. Mild symptoms of the condition include a chronic cough and sputum production.
In the mild stage, the breathing test shows mild airflow limitation. Symptoms may include a chronic cough and sputum production. At this stage of COPD, you may not be aware that airflow in your lungs is reduced.
In the moderate stage, the breathing test shows a worsening airflow limitation. Usually, the symptoms have increased. Shortness of breath usually develops when working hard, walking fast, or doing other brisk activity. At this stage, a person usually seeks medical attention.