Know your treatment options
The good news is that there are many types of treatment options for people with COPD. Treatment is based on the person's general medical condition and how far the disease has progressed. Options usually include a combination of treatments.
Understanding your medications and how to take them is an important step in managing COPD. If taken correctly, certain medicines can improve your breathing. Use the tabs below to learn more about medications and other COPD treatment options.
Your doctor can work with you to decide what is right for you
Medications taken by patients with COPD commonly include short-acting rescue inhalers and daily medications.
Short-acting rescue inhalers, also known as quick-relief or rescue inhalers, help to open the air passageways in the lungs when symptoms happen suddenly.
It's very important that you always carry your rescue inhaler with you for sudden symptoms of COPD.
There are two categories of COPD medication. One category is short-acting rescue inhalers and the other category is daily medications.
Daily medications should be taken regularly, every day, as prescribed by your healthcare provider to help manage your COPD.
The effects of most daily medications are long acting, typically lasting 12 to 24 hours. They are generally used once or twice a day to open the airways and keep them open and/or to help prevent COPD symptoms or exacerbations.
If you are still having difficulty breathing, ask your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options.
Please keep in mind that a maintenance medication does not replace your fast-acting inhaler. You never know when COPD symptoms will occur, so carry your fast-acting inhaler with you at all times.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that teaches you about lung function and offers exercises that may help you be more active with decreased shortness of breath. It is an important way to reduce the impact of COPD and other chronic lung diseases.
It may involve a whole team—doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists, and dietitians—all working with you to create a pulmonary rehabilitation program that meets your specific needs. Some people receive training designed to improve respiratory muscle function, reducing the severity of breathlessness and improving the ability to exercise. Others learn how to avoid or reduce shortness of breath during meals by adjusting the types and amounts of food they eat.
The overall goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to improve quality of life by decreasing respiratory symptoms, improving physical conditioning, and maintaining control over your day-to-day functioning.
When the lungs can't get enough oxygen into the blood, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy usually improves blood oxygen levels. It has actually been shown to help some people with COPD live longer.
Don't think that being on oxygen necessarily means you are homebound; there are many convenient portable systems available. Rather than limiting your independence, this therapy may actually allow you to be active by providing the oxygen that your body needs.
You've probably heard from others that you should stop smoking. But has anyone ever told you why you should?
Clinical studies have shown that people who quit smoking can significantly slow the accelerated loss of lung function caused by the smoking and COPD. Also, quitting smoking has been shown to help people with COPD live longer.
Minutes after you quit smoking, your body starts to respond:
- 20 minutes after quitting: your heart rate drops.
- 24 hours after quitting: carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Carbon monoxide is a poison found in cigarette smoke.
- 2-12 weeks after quitting: your chance of heart attack decreases.
- 1 year after quitting: your excess risk of heart disease drops to half that of a smoker.
When you have COPD, it's important to do all you can to help prevent illness in the first place. And these two vaccines can help.
If you have COPD or any type of lung issue, getting a flu shot is smart preventative medicine. You see, the flu can lead to serious problems for people with COPD. For example, a flu that affects your respiratory system can make it hard to breathe. So it's important to get your flu shot every year.
When you have a flu shot, ask if your pneumococcal vaccine is up to date. It can help protect you against S. Pneumoniae, a common type of pneumonia. People with COPD are at greater risk of developing this type of pneumonia, which can lead to severe illness.
If you are over 65 and/or have COPD, you should ask your doctor if and when you should get a pneumococcal vaccination.
It only takes a few minutes to get vaccinated. But the protection that they offer may reduce your risk.