What Are the Last Stages of COPD?

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Stage III and Stage IV are classified as the last stages of COPD, also referred to as severe and end-stage COPD. Of the four stages of COPD, these phases include the most severe symptoms, need the most progressive treatments and can be life-threatening.

Man on oxygen in hospital
Man on oxygen in hospital (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Definition

COPD is the acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants to include cigarette smoking, air pollution, chemical fumes and dust.

Doctor explaining diagnosis to a patient
Doctor explaining diagnosis to a patient (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Symptoms

Symptoms of the last stages of COPD include wheezing, shortness of breath, fatigue, tightening of the chest and coughing, which produces mucus.

Woman coughing
Woman coughing (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Stage III

In Stage III, symptoms of shortness of breath increase under exertion (walking fast and exercising). Airflow is decreased during breathing test (spirometry) and medical attention is required.

Man testing breathing with a spirometer
Man testing breathing with a spirometer (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Stage IV

Stage IV causes shortness of breath with just limited physical activity. This stage may cause respiratory failure and/or right-sided heart failure symptoms. Conditions at this stage may be life-threatening.

Senior sitting on couch
Senior sitting on couch (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Treatment

Currently there is no cure for COPD, treating symptoms is the main focus. COPD treatment options may include smoking cessation, bronchodilators, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy and surgery.

Woman going into surgery
Woman going into surgery (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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