Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It\u2019s most commonly caused by smoking, but not always.\nCOPD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse and there is no cure. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, coughing, and poor lung function. Early detection is critical to getting the appropriate treatment and managing the disease.\nFind help with Pulmonary and Respiratory Services at UPMC.\u00a0\nThe four stages doctors use to diagnose and treat COPD are:\nCOPD Stages\nStage 1: Mild\nAt this stage, you may not know you have COPD. You may experience more coughing or increased mucus production. If you\u2019re concerned that you may be developing COPD, your doctor may order a spirometry test to measure your lung function.\nIf you\u2019re a smoker, quit immediately to slow the decline of lung function. Your doctor may also recommend breathing exercises or lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms.\nStage 2: Moderate\nAt this stage, people have a cough, mucus, and shortness of breath. Some people pass these symptoms off as signs of aging or a cold. If you haven\u2019t had a spirometry test, your doctor is likely to order one to determine if you need treatment.\nYour doctor may recommend breathing exercises to help control your breathing and give you advice on how to avoid triggers that cause symptoms to worsen. You also may need to begin using a bronchodilator, a type of medication that opens the airways to help get more oxygen into your lungs.\nStage 3: Severe\nYour lung function has seriously declined at this stage. Symptoms are more pronounced, and you may have flare-ups when symptoms get worse. Your doctor will likely prescribe a long-acting bronchodilator and possibly steroids, expectorants, or oxygen therapy.\nStage 4: Very Severe\nAt this stage, you have very low lung function. You get winded with small amounts of activity, and when symptoms flare up, they can be life threatening. At this stage, treatment would build on your current therapies. Surgery may be needed to remove damaged areas of the lungs. In severe cases where all other treatment options have failed, a lung transplant may be necessary.\nIf you have an increase in coughing or mucus, make an appointment with your doctor. The earlier you find out what\u2019s causing your symptoms, the better your chances of starting treatment or making lifestyle changes that can slow the progression of COPD.