Treatment revolves around medicines that are administered through inhalers and which help to widen the narrowed air passages of the lungs.
Studies show that after cancer, heart problems and stroke, it is chronic obstructive disease (COPD) that takes away maximum lives every year in United States. This is alarming and the increased death rate due to COPD has been primarily attributed to smoking and air pollution. COPD primarily targets the lungs and interferes with normal breathing.
Although COPD is used to describe a wide range of lung problems, it usually indicates co-existence of two lung diseases, referred as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In both these conditions, the air passages of the lungs (bronchi) that allow inhalation and exhalation of air, gets inflamed. The inflammation causes narrowing of the bronchi, thereby restricting air flow in and out of the lungs. Trouble breathing, frequent bouts of cough and chest tightness are some of the common COPD symptoms. Unfortunately, COPD triggers irreparable damage to the lungs and so, treatment aims at saving the unharmed tissues of the lungs.
Mid to moderate cases of COPD are treated with bronchodilators but severe emphysema and chronic bronchitis may require additional medications like steroid inhalers. Smoking also has to be avoided for the COPD treatment to be effective. It is discussed below:
Give Up Smoking
Quit smoking! Well, this is the first advice doctors give to COPD patients. Rightly called the cancer stick, a cigarette is loaded with toxins that eventually ruin the lungs. So, by simply stopping smoking, one might immediately experience improvement in breathing in case the lungs are not severely damaged. In order to improve lung capacity to breathe easier and prevent the disease from advancing further, one must stop smoking. It is observed that 1/5th of patients affected with lung cancer continue to smoke, which only contributes in aggravating COPD.
There are quite a few COPD medications that have been formulated to relieve discomfort associated with COPD and prevent any complications. One can certainly manage COPD effectively with these medications. It is discussed below:
As the name suggests, these are medicines that dilate the passage of airways (bronchi), so as to reduce breathlessness These medications that are manufactured in the form of inhalers help to expand the constricted air passages to promote air flow to and from the lungs. They are commonly prescribed for COPD and asthma patients and work to ease breathing. There are two types of bronchodilators; short acting and long acting. Short acting bronchodilators work to provide immediate relief from rapid onset of symptoms. On the other hand, long acting medicines are recommended for chronic breathing problems and can be used daily as instructed by the doctor.
Severe cases of COPD might not respond to use of long acting bronchodilators alone. These steroids when inhaled decrease the inflammation of the airways and prevent recurring episodes of breathlessness. There are patients who experience frequent worsening of symptoms in their day-to-day activities. In such circumstances, besides bronchodilators, the doctor may recommend steroid inhalers for proper manangement of COPD.
Antibiotics are advised in case the person has acute bronchitis due to a bacterial infection. Steroid inhalers or bronchodilators may not be effective to treat respiratory infections and hence in addition to prescribed treatment, antibiotics may also be used.
As we all know the main task of the lungs is to transfer the inhaled oxygen to the blood. However, poor lung function due to COPD decreases oxygen levels in blood. Also, the concentration of oxygen in the surrounding atmosphere might not be enough to sustain bodily function, especially when the lungs are not working properly. In other words, the demand for oxygen increases in people with COPD. This is fulfilled by oxygen therapy, in which the patient inhales air containing 100% oxygen using a specific device attached to his nose.
In an attempt to improve COPD symptoms, the doctor may suggest lung volume reduction surgery in which the tissues of the lungs damaged from COPD are removed. The removal of the damaged part will help to boost lung function and reduce difficulty breathing. In case, major portion of the lung is damaged, a single lung transplant is yet another surgical method that may be considered for these patients.
Following a healthy well-balanced diet is also important so that the lungs function more efficiently. Engaging oneself in moderate exercise routine as per COPD exercise guidelines and eating healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits will boost immune system and assist to prevent chest infections that are often diagnosed in COPD patients.