COPD treatments: Improving your quality of life
COPD is a chronic lung disease with no cure. But there are many steps you can take to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life, using a variety of COPD treatments.
COPD treatment: Your goals
These are the main goals of COPD treatment:
- Relieve symptoms
- Slow the decline in lung function
- Improve daily lung function
- Decrease the number of acute episodes (COPD exacerbations)
- Improve overall quality of life
In some cases, hospitalisation is necessary to provide certain types of treatment and to monitor your care. You may need this during COPD exacerbations.
COPD treatment: Stopping smoking
COPD and smoking are a deadly combination. If you only do one thing to manage your COPD, stop smoking. Smoking not only leads to COPD, but it speeds up the progress of the disease.
Stopping smoking can:
- Reduce symptoms of COPD
- Slow the decline in lung function to a rate that's normal with ageing
- Improve the quality of life for anyone, with or without COPD
No matter how serious or mild your COPD may be, stopping smoking provides benefit. Ask your doctor or specialist respiratory nurse about nicotine replacement products and the NHS Stop Smoking service, or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline, on 0800 022 4332, for more information and professional help to break the habit.
COPD treatment: Other lifestyle changes
With COPD, you may benefit from a coordinated programme of lifestyle changes to help you stay active and improve your overall health. This is sometimes called a pulmonary rehabilitation programme. These are usually carried out at your local hospital, where a team of specialists provide nutrition advice, breathing exercises and other types of exercises for COPD. They also provide overall education about your disease and ways to manage it. And because infections like influenza or pneumonia can cause serious problems for those with COPD, treatment should include an annual flu jab and a vaccination against pneumonia (pneumococcal vaccination).
COPD treatment: Taking medications
Medication cannot cure COPD and cannot reverse the damage caused by smoking, but medication can help in a variety of ways. It may:
- Relax the muscles around airways
- Reduce airway inflammation
- Fight bacterial infections
Your doctor may prescribe more than one type of medication. Here are the most common types used to treat COPD:
Bronchodilators. This class of drugs relaxes muscles around airways. They may make breathing easier and reduce the number of episodes if the disease becomes acutely worse. Your doctor is likely to first prescribe an inhaled bronchodilator. To take it, you breathe in using a device such as a metered-dose inhaler, dry-powder inhaler or nebuliser. Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) use a chemical to push medication out of the inhaler. The common propellant is heptafluoropropane (HFA). The harmful CFCs that were damaging to the ozone layer have now been phased out.