Treatment Options for COPD
Affecting more than 32 million people, COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. However, the good news for patients is that being diagnosed with the condition is by no means an automatic death sentence. Because the majority of people in fact have mild forms of the disease, they have a variety of COPD treatment options available to them. And for those people who may have advanced COPD, there are still many effective treatment options that can not only control a person’s symptoms, but also reduce complications and help them lead an active life.
Above all, quitting smoking is the first and most important COPD treatment patients should undertake. While it is certainly not an easy task, quitting smoking is the only way to prevent COPD symptoms from getting worse. To help with this, doctors can prescribe nicotine replacement products as well as medications. Along with these options, it’s also good to stay away from secondhand smoke whenever possible.
Medication which usually comes in an inhaler, bronchodilators help to relax muscles around a person’s airway, making breathing easier while also reducing coughing and shortness of breath. Both short-acting and long-acting bronchodilators are available, with short-acting being used before activities and long-acting used on a daily basis. For people with severe cases of COPD, both may be necessary. Some of the most common bronchodilators prescribed to patients include:
In some cases, patients that suffer from frequent exacerbations of COPD may do better with inhaled steroids. Designed to reduce inflammation of the airway, they may have side effects including hoarseness, oral infections, and frequent bruising. Some of the most common ones given to patients include Flovent and Pulmicort.
If a person has moderate to severe exacerbations of COPD, a short course of oral steroids may be prescribed to keep symptoms from getting worse. However, these medications cannot be taken long-term due to the chance of developing very serious side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Large weight gains
If a person is prescribed oral steroids, they should be closely monitored by their doctor for signs of any side effects that may be occurring.
In addition to these COPD treatment options, oxygen therapy may also be used in moderate to severe cases. Technology now allows for patients to carry portable oxygen units that are very small and lightweight, letting them run errands or participate in other activities.
Despite the limitations COPD can impose on a person’s health, these and other treatment options now allow patients of all ages to experience a much better quality of life while managing their condition.