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Stages & Risks


When first diagnosed with COPD, finding out the stage is the very important first step in managing your condition. Healthcare professionals use four different stages to describe the progression of COPD.

Stage 1:


Your lungs have a small amount of damage. Symptoms include shortness of breath during physical activity.

Stage 2:


Your lungs are making it harder to breathe normally and causing fatigue due to a drop of oxygen levels in your blood and muscles, especially when you’re physically active.

Stage 1:


Your lung function is between 30 and 50 percent of normal capacity. Many people with Severe COPD battle frequent bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia.

Stage 1:

Very Severe

Your lungs are functioning at less than 30 percent of normal capacity. Symptoms may include weight loss, morning headaches, swollen feet, fingernail discoloration, accelerated heartbeat, and decreased mental alertness.

Risk Factors


Although rare, a genetic condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, may cause COPD. Those with this condition have low levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AATD), a protein made in the liver. If you have this condition and smoke, COPD can worsen very quickly. Because not all individuals with COPD have AATD, and because some individuals with COPD have never smoked, it is believed that there are other genetic predispositions to developing COPD.


The single biggest risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. The more you smoke the greater your risk of developing COPD. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase your risk of developing COPD. COPD can also be attributed to long-term contact with harmful pollutants in the workplace such as chemicals, dust, or fumes.


Older individuals have a higher probability to develop COPD than younger individuals since COPD takes years to develop and they have often been exposed to certain risk factors longer. Most people who have COPD are at least 40 years old when they begin experiencing symptoms.


Limited financial resources or limited access to healthcare can greatly increase your likelihood of having COPD.

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