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COPD Treatments: Improving Your Quality of Life

COPD is a chronic lung disease with no cure. But you can take many steps to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life using a variety of COPD treatments. Learn what you can do to feel better and improve your health.

COPD Treatment: Your Goals

These are the main goals of COPD treatment:

  • Relieve your symptoms
  • Slow your decline in lung function
  • Improve your daily lung function
  • Decrease your number of acute episodes (called COPD exacerbations)
  • Improve your overall quality of life

In some cases, hospitalization is necessary to provide certain types of treatment and to monitor your care. You may need this during COPD exacerbations.

COPD Treatment: Quitting Smoking

COPD and smoking are a deadly combination. If you only do one thing to manage your COPD, quit smoking. Smoking not only leads to COPD, but it speeds up the progress of the disease.

Quitting smoking can:

  • Curb the decline in lung function
  • Reduce symptoms of COPD
  • Slow the decline in lung function to a rate that's normal with aging
  • Improve the quality of life for anyone, with or without COPD

No matter how serious or mild your COPD, stopping smoking provides benefit. Do you need help quitting? Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement products and other medications which aid smoking cessation, as well as support groups and other techniques.

COPD Treatment: Other Lifestyle Changes

With COPD, you may benefit from a coordinated program of lifestyle changes to help you stay active and improve your overall health. This is sometimes called a pulmonary rehabilitation program. A team of specialists may provide nutrition advice, breathing exercises and other types of exercises for COPD. They also provide overall education about your disease and ways to manage it. And because infections like influenza or pneumonia can seriously worsen COPD, treatment should include vaccination for pneumococcal disease and yearly vaccinations for flu.

COPD Treatment: Taking Medications

Medications cannot cure COPD. And they cannot reverse the damage caused by smoking. But medications can help you in a variety of ways. They may:

  • Help open up airways
  • Reduce airway inflammation
  • Fight bacterial infections

Your doctor may prescribe more than one type of medication. Here are the most common types used to treat COPD:

Bronchodilators. This class of medications helps widen airways. These medications may make breathing easier and reduce the number of episodes if the disease acutely worsens. Your doctor is likely to first prescribe an inhaled bronchodilator. To take it, you breathe in using a device such as a metered dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or nebulizer. Metered dose inhalers (MDIs) use a chemical to push medication out of the inhaler. 

You may need to combine more than one bronchodilator or use a combination product for the best results.

WebMD Medical Reference

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