Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of conditions that result in breathing problems and blockages in airflow. People with stage 2 COPD may experience moderate symptoms. These can range in severity and vary from person to person.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), COPD affects millions of people in the United States. It is also the third main cause of disease-related deaths in the country.

Currently, there is no cure for COPD. However, there are many treatments available to help manage symptoms of this condition and improve a person’s quality of life.

This article discusses stage 2 COPD, including its symptoms, causes, and available treatment.

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COPD is a chronic progressive lung disease, which means that there is no cure for it and that it tends to worsen over time.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are forms of COPD. Most people with COPD will have symptoms of both these conditions.

When a person has COPD, the airways in the lungs do not operate properly, and the function of the lungs generally deteriorates over time.

Lung function declines because tiny air sacs in the lungs and airways become more rigid, mucus clogs the airways, or the air sac walls thicken.

As the damage to a person’s lungs worsens, the airflow decreases further. As a result, a person will get less oxygen into the body, and it will become harder for their body to get rid of carbon dioxide.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) identifies four stages of COPD, which range from mild to severe.

According to the GOLD guidelines, a person has stage 2 COPD if their FEV1 value is between 50 and 79%. FEV1 indicates the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in 1 second as measured by a spirometry machine.

It is of note, however, that the FEV1 measurement captures only one component of the COPD severity. For example, two patients with the same FEV1 reading can have substantially different exercise tolerances and prognoses.

Therefore, other aspects of COPD, such as the severity of symptoms, risk of exacerbations, and presence of comorbidities, are also important in the classification and prognosis of the condition.

Learn more about FEV1 and COPD here.

According to the ALA, up to 90% of COPD cases are due to cigarette smoke.

Additionally, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) states long-term exposure to damaging lung irritants may cause COPD. Irritants include cigarette smoke, secondhand smoke, other forms of inhaled tobacco smoke, air pollution, chemicals, and dust.

In rare cases, a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency may also cause COPD in some people.

While smoking is the main factor that increases a person’s risk of COPD, the NHLBI says a person’s likelihood of developing the condition is still greater if they are over the age of 40 or have a family history of COPD.

People with stage 2 COPD may experience a range of symptoms of varying severity. Also, at this stage, some people with COPD might not be aware they have the condition.

A 2018 study that included 449 participants followed people with persistent airflow limitation for up to 3 years. Of those, 90% had mild, or stage 1, to moderate, or stage 2, COPD.

The study found the respiratory symptoms and severity differed considerably from person to person. The symptoms the researchers recorded include:

The study also noted a wide range of symptoms, even in people with the same stage of the condition. A person’s lung function, how long they smoked, their BMI, and sex also had an impact on their symptoms.

The CDC state a person with COPD may also experience shortness of breath, especially with physical exertion and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

A person’s symptoms will become more severe as their lungs become more damaged. Moreover, people living with COPD may also have frequent respiratory infections.

COPD becomes more acute as the damage to the lungs increases. Lifestyle habits and health management can affect how quickly the damage to the lungs progresses.

According to the CDC, a person’s COPD will worsen more quickly if they continue to smoke after learning about their condition. People who decide to quit smoking, however, may slow the progression of the disease.

As COPD worsens, people may experience more serious symptoms, including:

Most organizations recommend people with COPD stop smoking to slow the progression of lung damage. NHLBI also suggests avoiding other lung irritants, including chemicals, dust, and air pollution.

People should seek guidance from a doctor to develop an ongoing treatment plan, which may include prescription medications, respiratory therapy, and lifestyle changes.

COPD usually worsens gradually. However, a lung infection may sometimes cause the disease to worsen rapidly. For that reason, it is important that people living with COPD receive vaccines for the flu and pneumonia, as directed by their healthcare professional.

Although there is no cure for COPD, numerous treatment options are available for people with stage 2 COPD.

Most treatments will focus on preserving lung function, slowing the progression of the disease, and relieving symptoms.

Treatment will vary but can include a combination of the following:

  • quitting smoking
  • using medications such as bronchodilators
  • receiving vaccines for pneumonia, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses
  • undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation
  • starting an exercise program, a nutrition program, or both

As the symptoms worsen, a person may need additional treatment options, such as medications that combine inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators and supplemental oxygen therapy.

In very severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Doctors consider stage 2 COPD to be moderate.

When a person has stage 2 COPD, their symptoms can include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and frequent respiratory infections.

COPD will generally become more severe as the disease progresses.

While there is no cure for COPD, people can slow its progression and maintain a good quality of life by quitting smoking and following a doctor’s recommendations.