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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - Treatment Overview

The goals of treatment for COPD are to:

  • Slow down the disease by quitting smoking and avoiding triggers, such as air pollution.
  • Limit your symptoms, such as shortness of breath, with medicines.
  • Increase your overall health with regular activity.
  • Prevent and treat flare-ups with medicines and other treatment.

Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab)Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab) can help you meet these goals. It helps train your mind, muscles, and heart to get the most out of damaged lungs. The program involves a team of health professionals who help prevent or manage the problems caused by COPD. Rehab typically combines exercise, breathing therapy, advice for eating well, and other education.

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Causes of COPD Acute Exacerbations

Lung infections are the most common cause of acute exacerbations. These infections can be viral or bacterial. Some specific viruses that cause COPD exacerbations are influenza, rhinovirus or adenovirus. Recent evidence suggests exacerbations of COPD are often caused by certain kinds of bacteria. These are known as mycoplasma and chlamydia. Your health care provider may need to consider the risk of you getting an infection from one of these less common organisms. He/she will need to consider...

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Self-care

Much of the treatment for COPD includes things you can do for yourself.

Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to slow the disease and improve your quality of life.

Quitting Smoking

Other things you can do that really make a difference including eating well, staying active, and avoiding triggers. To learn more, see Living With COPD.

Medicines

The medicines used to treat COPD can be long-acting to help prevent symptoms or short-acting to help relieve them. To learn more, see Medications.

Other treatment you may need

If COPD gets worse, you may need other treatment, such as:

  • Oxygen treatmentOxygen treatment. This involves getting extra oxygen through a face mask or through a small tube that fits just inside your nose. It can be done in the hospital or at home.
  • Treatment for muscle weakness and weight loss. Many people with severe COPD have trouble keeping their weight up and their bodies strong. This can be treated by paying attention to eating regularly and well.
  • Help with depression. COPD can affect more than your lungs. It can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. These things take energy and can make your COPD symptoms worse. But they can be treated. If you feel very sad or anxious, call your doctor.
  • Surgery. Surgery is rarely used for COPD. It's only considered for people who have severe COPD that has not improved with other treatment.
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