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.
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.
The medicines used to treat COPD can be long-acting to help prevent symptoms or short-acting to help relieve
them. Medicines include:
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.
- Pulmonary rehabPulmonary rehab. This involves a team of health professionals who help prevent or manage the problems caused by
COPD. It typically combines exercise, breathing therapy, advice for eating well, and education.
- Treatment formuscle weakness and weight lossmuscle 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
- Surgery. Surgery is rarely used for COPD. It's only considered for people who have severe COPD that has not improved with other treatment.
Dealing with flare-ups
COPD flare-ups, or exacerbations, are
when your symptoms—shortness of breath, cough, and mucus production—quickly get
worse and stay worse.
Work with your doctor to make a plan for
dealing with a COPD flare-up. If you are prepared, you
may be able to get it under control. Don't panic if you start to have one.
Quick treatment at home may help you prevent serious breathing problems.
A flare-up can be life-threatening, and you may need to go to your
doctor's office or to a hospital. Treatment for flare-ups includes:
- Medicines to help you breathe.
- Machines to help you breathe. The use of
a machine to help with breathing is called
mechanical ventilation. Ventilation is used only if
medicine isn't helping you and your breathing is getting very difficult.
- Noninvasive positive pressure
ventilation (NPPV) forces air into your lungs through a face mask.
- With invasive ventilation, a breathing tube
is inserted into your windpipe, and a machine forces air into your lungs.
- Oxygen to help you breathe. Oxygen treatment can be done in the hospital or at home.
- Antibiotics. These
medicines are used when a bacterial
lung infection is considered likely. People with
COPD have a higher risk of pneumonia and frequent lung
infections. These infections often lead to
COPD exacerbations, or flare-ups, so it's important to
try to avoid them.