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Stages of COPD: Mild through End-Stage COPD

7 Feb 2017
| Under COPD, Disease Education, Medical | Posted by | 22 Comments
Stages of COPD: Mild through End-Stage COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex and progressive chronic lung disease. Typically, COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is characterized by the restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs. The obstruction of airflow makes breathing difficult. The causes of COPD include smoking, long-term exposure to air pollutants and a rare genetic disorder. To understand the severity of COPD and how it affects people’s lives, doctors developed stages of COPD. Here is the information you need to know about mild through end-stage COPD.

How are the Stages of COPD Determined?

The two most common ways to determine the stages of COPD include the GOLD Staging System and the BODE Index.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) developed the GOLD Staging System. In the GOLD System, the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) measurement from a pulmonary function test is used to place COPD into stages. Often, doctors also consider your COPD symptoms.

The BODE Index stands for body mass, obstruction of airflow, dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and exercise capacity. Doctors use the BODE Index to better understand how COPD affects your life and the severity of your symptoms.

Other types of lung function tests may also be needed to help doctors figure out your stage of COPD. These tests include gas diffusion tests, 6-minute walk tests, body plethysmography and spirometry.

What are the Stages of COPD?

Stages of COPD: Mild through End-Stage COPD

COPD has four stages. The stages of COPD range from mild to very severe. COPD affects everyone differently. Because COPD is a progressive lung disease, it will worsen over time. Your doctor will categorize your COPD stage based on your COPD symptoms and results from your lung function tests.

For some people, the stages of COPD develop slowly, but for some, the disease progresses rapidly. Seeing your doctor regularly is important, even if you’re feeling well. Your doctor will track your condition over time. This means that your doctor may recommend you have multiple pulmonary function tests, chest x-rays, CT scans and other types of testing.

Your doctor can keep track of how well your lungs and COPD treatment plan are working, so he or she can modify your treatment plan as your stage of COPD changes. As the stages of COPD increase, airflow becomes more limited.

The Stages of COPD:

  • Mild COPD or Stage 1—Mild COPD with a FEV1 about 80 percent or more of normal.
  • Moderate COPD or Stage 2—Moderate COPD with a FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal.
  • Severe COPD or Stage 3—Severe emphysema with a FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal.
  • Very Severe COPD or Stage 4—Very severe or End-Stage COPD with a lower FEV1 than Stage 3, or people with low blood oxygen levels and a Stage 3 FEV1.

What Happens in Mild Stage COPD?

The first category is stage 1 or mild stage COPD. In stage 1 COPD, people may not realize that they have a problem yet. Many people continue with their daily activities with slight limitations to their breathing. Some people experience a cough and phlegm.

It’s important to see a doctor and receive a diagnosis as early as possible. This way you and your doctor can work together to develop an individualized COPD treatment plan.

What Happens in Moderate Stage COPD?

During the moderate stage of COPD or stage 2, many people notice more coughing and mucus production. People tend to seek medical care for limitations in breathing and increased symptoms.

At this stage, your doctor may prescribe bronchodilators to help you breathe better. Your doctor may also recommend pulmonary rehabilitation. Participating in a pulmonary rehab program helps people with lung diseases learn how to breathe and function better. It combines exercise, education and support, and you work with a team of doctors, nurses and medical specialists.

What Happens in Severe Stage COPD?

Stage 3 or severe stage COPD has a large impact on people’s quality of life. Lung function continues to decline, and breathing becomes more difficult. Typically, COPD symptoms make it challenging to enjoy your favorite activities or to perform daily tasks. During this stage, many people feel more fatigue and have difficulty exercising.

Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation, combination inhalers and other kinds of medications or therapies.

What Happens in Very Severe or End-Stage COPD?

End-stage COPD or stage 4 is classified as very severe and often affects quality of life profoundly. Flare-ups and breathing issues may become life threatening. Your doctor may add to your existing COPD treatment plan or change it based on your needs.

By end-stage COPD, many people have trouble receiving enough oxygen. Low blood oxygen levels can lead to serious health conditions such as hypoxia or hypoxemia, cyanosis and other problems. When low blood oxygen levels occur, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy to help ensure your body receives adequate oxygen.

Taking Care of You and Your Lungs

Stages of COPD: Mild through End-Stage COPD

Understanding the stages of COPD is one of the first steps you can take in becoming more proactive in your healthcare. As your COPD progresses, continue working with your doctor to modify your treatment plan as needed. Take note of any changes you notice in your symptoms, what triggers your symptoms to worsen and how COPD affects your ability to do daily activities. See your doctor immediately if you feel unwell or have changes in your health.

In combination with your current treatment plan, consider talking with your doctor about alternative therapies, such as lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements or stem cell therapy. Interestingly, stem cell treatment works to promote healing from within the lungs and may have the potential to improve breathing and quality of life. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell therapy, contact us at (800) 729-3065.


  1. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    If you contact one of our patient coordinators, they can help you determine a timeline for stem cell treatment.

    They have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to speaking with you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Nancy

    2 months ago

    How long would I have to wait to have the surgery.? I have been trying to save money to possibly have it done

  3. Lung Institute

    3 months ago


    Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, at this time, most doctors aren’t going to recommend anything that is not considered traditional medicine, especially when the treatment is not yet covered by insurance. Generally, doctors practice traditional medicine and are very statistical. Even though there are many advancements in the field of regenerative medicine, many doctors are still skeptical.

    We have done research and continue to do research to make sure the patient receives the best quality of care. We have published a White Paper with our latest findings, which you can find on our resources page.

    Because treatment cost varies depending on treatment type, it’s best to speak one-on-one with one of our well-qualified patient coordinators. They have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. Chronic lung diseases affect everyone differently, so we can best help you by speaking with you over the phone. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Sandy

    3 months ago

    Could You tell me why pulmonogist do not RECOMMEND this for patients?
    I ask my docTor about this and was told there was nOt enough research to warraNt wheTher or not it works!
    What is the cost since insurance does not pay?
    What clinic is close to The indianapolis indiana area?
    I would like these wuestionS answered before making a call… Please and thank you!

  5. Lung Institute

    3 months ago


    First off, we are sorry to hear about your mother’s condition. We have a clinic in Dallas. Also, we have treated people at all four stages of COPD and achieved results.

    Our dedicated medical team has a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. We’re happy to answer your questions, so feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. Paul

    3 months ago

    my mom has stage 4 copd. We are in houston, tx. Is there local treatments abailable?
    Is it even a consideration at this advanced stage?

  7. Lung Institute

    4 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and question. The Lung Institute only has offices in the United States.

    Tampa, Fla.
    Nashville, Tenn.
    Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Pittsburgh, Pa.
    Dallas, Texas

    We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell therapy, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  8. Thelma Tanghian Dujali

    4 months ago

    Is there available stem cell treatment outside these places mentioned? How about places outside of America, like the Philippines? Am just very interested, my husband had this illness too! Thank you and God bless!

  9. Lung Institute

    5 months ago


    The Lung Institute has clinics in Pittsburgh, PA, which is about a two hour drive away from Cleveland. If you’d like more information on stem cell therapy or to see if you’re a candidate, please call (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator.


    Lung Institute

  10. Edward j Kantor

    6 months ago

    Is stem cell hear in Cleveland ohio

  11. Phoebe

    8 months ago

    Hi Vincent,

    We are happy to discuss your questions further, so feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our medical team. They have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  12. Vincent hamm

    8 months ago

    I would like to have stem cell therapy for my copd stage 3-4 but i cannot get financing.I go to the VA for most all my health care, but they do not do Stem cell therapy.Do any of the programs out there offer financing to low income people.I live in florida and there are several places that offer the therapy but with a low credit score,i cannot get it..oh well some can some cant.

  13. Matt

    10 months ago

    Hello John,
    Thank you for your question. Here, at the Lung Institute, we specialize in stem cell therapy to help those with lung diseases. Stem cells are the building blocks of life because they self-renew and replicate to form any type of tissue. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells, meaning cells from one part of the body can transform their function to that of other types of tissue.

    Regarding stem cell therapy and lung disease, the patients’ own stem cells are harvested from the blood or bone marrow, separated and returned to the patient intravenously. Once back in the body, the stem cells head to the problem areas of the lungs and may promote healing.

    If you have any questions, please contact one of our staff members at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  14. john

    10 months ago

    what is stem cell therapy

  15. Phoebe

    11 months ago

    Dear Tony,

    Thanks for your question. The Lung Institute has clinics nationwide in Tampa, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; Dallas, TX; Pittsburgh, PA; and Nashville, TN. The closest Lung Institute clinic to North Carolina is out Nashville clinic. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell therapy, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  16. Tony

    11 months ago

    Is stem cell therapy availiable in North Carolina?

  17. Matt

    11 months ago

    Hello Harry,
    Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover our treatment at this time. It usually takes several years before insurance companies begin covering newer medical procedures, once they’ve seen a financial benefit in their favor first. The cost of treatment depends on which treatment option is best, in order to know which treatment option is best, more medical information is needed. Please give us a call at (855) 510-7519.

  18. Matt

    11 months ago

    Hello Mary,
    Thank you for your question. Stem cells used in our procedures are extracted from the patient’s own blood or bone marrow. If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  19. Mary

    11 months ago

    How do you harvest stem cells for the procedure?

  20. harry gruber

    11 months ago


  21. M R

    11 months ago

    Hello Jeri,
    Thank you for your question. The Lung Institute operates five nationwide clinics in Pittsburgh, PA; Nashville, TN; Tampa, FL; Dallas, TX; and Scottsdale, AZ. If you’re interested in learning more about stem cell therapy and the Lung Institute, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  22. JEri Israel

    12 months ago

    Is the stem cell therapy available at Duke in Durham NC?

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* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

Under current FDA guidelines and regulations 1271.10 and 1271.15, the Lung Institute complies with all necessary requirements for operation. The Lung Institute is firmly in accordance with the conditions set by the FDA for exemption status and conducts itself in full accordance with current guidelines. Any individual who accesses Lung Institute's website for information is encouraged to speak with his or her primary physician for treatment suggestions and conclusive evidence. All information on this site should be used for educational and informational use only.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and stem cell procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.