COPD Treatment And Care
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that makes breathing difficult and blocks airflow to the lungs. The two most common forms of COPD include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Lung damage cannot be repaired, but there are treatment options to control symptoms and reduce further damage.
Lifestyle changes and treatments help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of disease. Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist who specializes in lung disorders. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding lung irritants and quitting smoking are recommended for patients. You can join a support group for quitting smoking found at community groups, medical centers and hospitals.
Vitamins and nutritional supplements may help some patients. Your doctor may recommend eating more frequent, smaller meals and increasing rest periods. Medication therapy will depend on the severity of your COPD. Your healthcare team may also suggest the use of inhalers as part of the treatment plan. Mild cases of COPD use inhalers only when symptoms occur. Moderate or severe COPD may require frequent treatments of long-acting bronchodilators.
Some doctors suggest a combination of bronchodilators and steroids to ease symptoms. Treatment often includes vaccines such as flu shots and pneumococcal shots to prevent pneumonia. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs include exercise, nutritional and psychological counseling. Disease management training is also suggested for the patient.
COPD patients often need additional oxygen to breathe normally and to carry out bodily functions. Supplemental oxygen may also be needed to go to the grocery store or carry out activities of daily living. Long-term oxygen therapy may last up to 15 hours or more each day. This is usually needed for patients with severe COPD. Oxygen therapy is more effective the longer you use it.
Patients with severe COPD may benefit from lung surgery to improve breathing capabilities. However, your doctor will make sure you are a candidate for this type of surgery since not everyone is healthy enough for surgery.
Symptoms may become worse for days or weeks even while undergoing treatments. It can lead to lung failure if you do not receive immediate medical care. Once symptoms improve, you should take steps to prevent future exacerbation.
In some cases, a lung transplant may be an option for patients who meet specific criteria. A lung transplant may help you breathe better, but there are risks associated with it such as organ rejection and lifelong dependence to immune-suppressing medications.