An irreversible and incurable lung disease causing airflow blockage and breathing-related issues is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). And, although there’s no cure for the condition, patients can get relief and control symptoms with medication, lifestyle changes, or surgical procedures and interventions, in severe cases.
Indeed, COPD treatment is essential for avoiding exacerbations that may have negative and serious effects on a patient’s health. That said, let’s have a look at the most common COPD treatment options.
Although it may sound surprising, lifestyle has a significant impact on COPD. Therefore, patients suffering from this lung disease may get relief by incorporating some healthy lifestyle changes including:
This is the crucial step to take to manage COPD as the cigarette habit is the most common cause of COPD. So, if you have the disease, consider smoking cessation seriously as this is sometimes enough to manage symptoms and prevent disease progression.
We all know that exercise is great for our overall health but it can also help in optimizing lung function with COPD, by maximizing oxygen exchange and lung capacity. In addition, regular exercise will help you keep muscle strength and improve endurance.
Sometimes, COPD may lead to a reduced appetite which may, in turn, make symptoms worse and increase the risk of infections which will eventually lead to exacerbation of COPD. Hence, ensure you get enough calories daily, especially if you have experienced remarkable weight loss.
Practice Breathing Techniques
Finally, you can significantly improve muscle control and oxygen exchange by practicing breathing techniques. Thus, next time you see your doctor, make sure you ask him/her about which techniques to use or to refer you to a respiratory therapist.
Apart from healthy lifestyle changes, especially if they don’t provide the results needed, patients with COPD may have to take prescribed medications on a regular schedule or a short-acting medication in case symptoms flare-up. COPD prescriptions may include:
These medications, typically taken with an inhaler or through aerosol therapy, are efficient for relaxing the wall muscles of your airways, thus enabling breathing, reducing cough, and improving or preventing acute dyspnea.
Furthermore, bronchodilators are broken up into two major categories based on how fast they act. The first type is called short-acting bronchodilators and work within seconds to minutes. Examples include Ventolin, Proair, Xopenex, and Atrovent.
On the other hand, long-acting bronchodilators are used to keep airways open and muscles relaxed for extended periods, from 12 to 24 hours. These are also divided into two categories based on the mode of action:
- long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) – Serevent, Arcapta, Brovana, and Performist; and
- long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMAs) – Spiriva and TudorzaPressair
Patients with COPD may also have to take corticosteroids which keep inflammation down and decrease the number of exacerbations. They are also divided into two main categories: inhaled and oral corticosteroids.
Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended for people who also have asthma or a high eosinophil count and those who have one or more COPD exacerbations a year. Otherwise, you shouldn’t take them as they increase the risk of pneumonia, mouth infections, and skin bruising. Examples include Flovent and Pulmicort.
On the other side, oral corticosteroids such as Prednisone are used for helping you recover faster during a COPD exacerbation by improving lung function and alleviating hypoxemia. Plus, they may decrease the risk of relapse and avoid treatment failure. Yet, long-term use of these medications can lead to serious side effects like osteoporosis, diabetes, and an increased risk of cataracts, weight gain, and infections.
Phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) Inhibitors
Last but not least, COPD patients may be prescribed PDE4 inhibitors as this lung disease can cause an overproduction of the phosphodiesterase-4 enzyme which causes lung inflammation. These medications block this enzyme and thus reduce COPD exacerbations in people who suffer from chronic bronchitis or severe COPD. A common example of a PDE4 inhibitor is Daliresp and may cause side effects like weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and headache.