What are the treatments for COPD?

Treatment of COPD. There is not a cure or a way to reverse the damage to your lungs but there are things you can do to stop COPD from getting worse. The most important treatment is to stop smoking. Giving up smoking can relieve your symptoms and slow down the progression of COPD, even if you’ve had it for a long time. If you have mild COPD, stopping smoking may get rid of your symptoms completely.


Self-help
There are other steps you can take to stop COPD getting worse and to ease your symptoms, including:


• keeping up your fluid levels by drinking enough water and using steam or a humidifier to help keep your airways moist - this can help reduce the thickness of mucus and phlegm that are produced
• exercising to keep moving and eating a healthy diet to help your heart and lungs
• having a flu vaccination each year, as COPD makes you particularly vulnerable to the complications of flu, such as pneumonia (bacterial infection of the lungs)
• having a vaccination for the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium that causes pneumonia


Pulmonary rehabilitation
Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. These are programmes consisting of exercise, education about COPD, advice on nutrition and psychological support. Pulmonary rehabilitation has been shown to help people with COPD.


Medicines
There are various medicines that may help to ease your symptoms. Some help to control flare-ups. Discuss with your doctor which treatment is best for you.


Bronchodilators
These treatments, commonly used for asthma, may help to relieve wheezing and breathlessness by relaxing your lungs (bronchodilation) so that air flows into them more easily. They are available as short-acting or long-acting inhalers or as tablets.


Steroids
Steroid treatments may help if you have more severe COPD. They are usually used if bronchodilators are not effective and are available as inhalers or as tablets.

Steroid tablets may be prescribed as a short course for one or two weeks if you have a bad flare-up. They work best if you take them as soon as possible after the flare-up starts.


Mucolytics
Mucolytics break down the phlegm in your lungs, making it easier for you to cough it up. Your doctor may prescribe you a mucolytic if you have a chronic, phlegm-producing cough. Mucolytics may also reduce the number of flare-ups you have although more research is needed to prove this.


Oxygen therapy
If your COPD becomes severe, you may develop low blood oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy can help relieve this. You inhale the oxygen through a mask or small tubes (nasal cannulae) that sit beneath your nostrils.

The oxygen is provided in large tanks for home use, or in smaller, portable versions for outside the home. An oxygen concentrator - a machine that uses air to produce a supply of oxygen-rich gas - is an alternative to tanks.

It is particularly important to give up smoking if you have oxygen therapy for COPD because there is a serious fire risk. Oxygen therapy can either be short-term, long-term - where you use it all the time at home - or ambulatory - when its used for exercise or when outdoors.


Surgery
If you have severe COPD, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove diseased areas of your lung. This can help your lungs to function more effectively. However, this is only carried out in certain circumstances - ask your doctor for more advice. Rarely, having a lung transplant may be an option. This is usually only if your life expectancy is under two years.
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Related Questions

What are long term COPD treatments?

Improve mortality. A few things have been shown to improve mortality in copd 1: stop smoking 2: oxygen therapy 3: improving your pulmonary fitness (like doing pulmonary rehab) good luck! Read more...
COPD. Inhalers-long acting beta agonist +/-steroid (advair, symbicort-most common combination inhalers approved for copd), anticholinergic (spiriva and tudorza), oral steroids, oral meds such as theophylline and daliresp, and oxygen to name the most common. One other combination inhaler called Dulera (formoterol and mometasone) had been approved for treatment in asthma but can also be used in patients with COPD with bronchospasm. Read more...