Stages of Emphysema

Emphysema is one of the most deadly forms of lung disease. Emphysema is a deterioration of the lung tissue. The end result of this deterioration is that the lungs lose their elasticity and the person suffering can no longer breathe.

Those who suspect they are suffering from emphysema are given a spirometry test. This simple and painless test is sensitive enough to determine if a person has emphysema. The test results also indicate what stage the emphysema is in.

Spirometers are the most sensitive test for emphysema. They are the most common as well, because they can detect the onset of emphysema in the early stages. There are four stages of emphysema; at risk, mild emphysema, moderate emphysema and severe emphysema. 


This is the first stage of emphysema. The result of the spirometry test would be close to normal. The patient would only suffer very mild symptoms. These would include a moderate cough, and some sputum (mucus) production.

Mild Emphysema

In this the second stage of emphysema, spirometry results would show mild airflow limitation. The symptoms of the at-risk stage, a cough and sputum production would continue but increase in frequency. The mild airflow limitation would not be enough that you would notice it in your daily activities.

Moderate Emphysema

In this the third stage of emphysema, spirometry results would show a worsening airflow limitation. The symptoms of coughing and sputum production will have increased in both frequency and severity. Added to the list of symptoms will be breathing difficulty.

Shortness of breath will not be present constantly but usually develops during strenuous activity.  Things as simple as working hard, walking fast, or doing other brisk activity will bring on the breathing trouble. These are the symptoms that normally cause a person to seek medical advice.

Severe Emphysema

In this the fourth and final stage of emphysema, spirometry results would show severe airflow limitation. The symptoms of coughing and sputum production will have become nearly constant.

The shortness of breath will now come after just a little activity. Simple walking will cause the patient to gasp. Some cases of emphysema develop into respiratory failure. Patients may develop heart failure as well. By this point there is little joy left in the patient's life.

There is no hope for recovery from emphysema.The pain and discomfort caused by the symptoms can be fought. The disease itself will never be improved or cured. The best thing that a person can do for their emphysema is to quit smoking.

Every cigarette you have causes the emphysema to become worse and worse. The treatment of emphysema focuses on relief of the symptoms and improving breathing. One of the side effects of emphysema is that the inability to breathe leads to a more sedentary lifestyle.

This inactivity can lead to more health problems on top of emphysema. The work done to improve the strength of the emphysema sufferer's lungs is an attempt to fight off inactivity. Some of the methods of treatment that will be used include; medications, pulmonary (lung) rehabilitation, oxygen, and surgery.