COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic, life limiting condition that cannot be cured. Fortunately, there are a variety of options for managing the condition. It is important to note that if patients do not manage it properly, they will go through various stages of COPD treatment, ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery. It also vital to remember that treatment recommendations are made to prevent the disease from worsening any further.
The Need To Stop Smoking:
According to VeryWellHealth, if you have COPD, the most important thing you can do for your health is quit smoking. (1) The first of the stage of COPD treatment is to stop smoking immediately. Almost all cases of COPD are caused by smoking, so this should be the start. Usually, patients will be prescribed some form of nicotine replacement therapy to support their efforts. The damage that has been done cannot be reversed, but stopping smoking will ensure that no further damage will be caused.
Medicine For COPD:
One of the next stages of COPD treatment is to provide people with medication. Bronchodilators are usually the first option, which help to relax the muscles in the airways. In so doing, they reduce flareups, make breathing easier, and combat bacterial infections and inflammation. Usually, people will be provided with a metered dose inhaler, a nebulizer, or a dry powder inhaler.
According to COPD.net, bronchodilator medications are a key part of managing COPD symptoms. Many people with COPD use at least one kind of bronchodilator as part of their treatment regimens. It is also common for patients to have more than one type of bronchodilator to manage different parts of the disease. This is because different bronchodilators can work in different ways to relieve symptoms. (3)
Beta-agonists can also be prescribed. These are mainly used when people suffer from episodic flareups, for instance, when they exercise. Additionally, a lot of people experience shortness of breath before a full COPD attack, and beta-agonists can help prevent the attack from happening. Usually, the effect of these medications will last for about 12 hours.
Next, there are phosphodiesterase inhibitors. These are used to strengthen the diaphragm muscle. In so doing, they stimulate the respiratory center.
Another option is to prescribe inhaled steroids, which is common in moderate to severe COPD. These steroids help to reduce inflammation. Because of their various side effects, however, these drugs are generally prescribed for a period of six weeks to three months. They are not as effective in COPD, but can provide a degree of instant relief.
Mucolytic agents can also be prescribed to reduce the viscosity of the sputum, thereby improving clearance of secretion. COPD is characterized by excessive mucus in the early stages. These agents help to relieve these symptoms.
Finally, there is oxygen therapy. Most people with COPD have low blood saturation, and administering more oxygen through a portable tank with a face mask or nasal tube can be very effective. This helps to reduce mortality rates but it is only prescribed to more advanced cases of COPD.
Surgical Options For COPD:
According to Lung.org, some people living with COPD that have severe and frequent symptoms, doctors may suggest lung surgery to improve breathing. The surgery takes care of the emphysema component of COPD. Not everyone is a candidate for lung surgery. (2)
The last stage of treatment is surgery. This is provided if significant damage to the lungs is present, which is common in advanced cases of COPD. If lung function is significantly reduced, a bullectomy may be advised. In this procedure, air spaces that interfere with breathing are removed. Alternatively, lung volume reduction surgery may be offered, removing damaged tissue. Lastly, in very severe cases, a lung transplant may be offered.
The most important thing with COPD, however, is to make lifestyle changes. Having been caused by exposure to pollutants like smoking, people need to stay away from these, including secondary smoking. If they manage to do that, their prognosis is much more positive.