COPD is different for everyone. So it only makes sense that the way each individual approaches his or her treatment may be different. Only you and your healthcare team can decide on a COPD treatment plan thatís right for you.
Finding the right treatment options with your healthcare team is important for a number of reasons. The right treatments can help you feel better on a day-to-day basis, improve your level of activity, slow the progression of COPD, and help your breathing.1
One of your lungs' most important jobs is to get oxygen to your blood. When the lungs can't get enough oxygen to your blood, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy. It usually improves blood oxygen levels and has been shown to help some people with COPD live longer. Some worry that oxygen therapy will make them homebound. But there are many different ways to get around while on oxygen therapy. And rather than restricting your independence, it may actually help you be more active by getting your body the amount of oxygen it needs.2
Short-acting rescue inhalers are sometimes called quick-relief inhalers. They help open the airways in the lungs when symptoms suddenly get worse. It's important to always carry your rescue inhaler with you in case your symptoms get worse.3
They're generally taken once or twice a day to help keep the airways open, and some of them can help prevent exacerbations. It's important to take your COPD daily medications regularly as prescribed by your healthcare team, even on days when you're feeling better. Also keep in mind that these maintenance medications can't replace your rescue inhaler. Be sure to keep your short-acting rescue inhaler with you at all times.4
When you have COPD, preventing illness is key. Flu shots can be a crucial element of your treatment. The flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD. Because the flu may affect your respiratory system and make it hard to breathe, it's important to get your flu shot every year.
The pneumococcal vaccine can help protect you against a common type of pneumonia. People with COPD are at greater risk for developing pneumonia, so it's important to ask if your pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia shot) is up to date the next time you get a flu shot.5
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that uses exercises, including special breathing exercises, to help you be more active with less shortness of breath. It can be a helpful way to try to minimize the impact of COPD on you. Sometimes pulmonary rehabilitation can involve a whole team, for example, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists, and dieticians. All of these people play different roles. Some focus on respiratory muscle function, while others may work on reducing shortness of breath during meals by adjusting your diet and eating habits. It may seem like a lot, but when it comes to your health, the right team of people working together can be a huge help.6
1. How is COPD treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health Web site. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment.html. "How Is COPD Treated?"
2.What is oxygen therapy? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health Web site. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/oxt. Paragraph 1. "Outlook", full section.
3. COPD medications. American Lung Association Web site. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/copd-medications.html
4.Global Intiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD: Updated 2015.
http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD_Report_2013_Feb20.pdf. Page 21 "Pharmacologic Therapy for Stable COPD" section, to page 26.
5.How Is COPD Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health Web site. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment.html."Vaccines" full section.
6. What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health Web site. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pulreh. Full page.