COPD Treatment Options
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is an umbrella term for progressive, chronic lung diseases that make it hard to breath, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The disease is increasingly common, affecting millions of Americans, and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Most cases of COPD are caused by inhaling pollutants from smoking. Fumes, chemicals, and dust found in many work environments are also common contributing factors as well are genetics. Symptoms and signs include: increased breathlessness, frequent coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. The good news is that COPD is often preventable and treatable and here are some resources about treatments to take action.
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The goals of treatment are to slow down the disease by avoiding triggers such as smoking and air pollution, limit your symptoms with medicines, increase your overall health with regular activity, and prevent and treat flare ups.
Much of the treatment for COPD include things you can do for yourself. Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of your life. Other things you can do include eating well, staying active, and avoiding triggers.
Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab) helps you train your mind, muscles, and heart to get the most out of damaged lungs. The program involves working with a team of health professionals who help prevent or manage problems caused by COPD. This method typically combines exercise, breathing therapy, nutrition counseling, and education.
The medicines used to treat COPD can be long-acting to help prevent symptoms or short-acting to help relieve them. Some COPD medicines are used with inhaler or nebulizer devices. For people who have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, medicines such as Aralast, Prolastin, or Zemaira may be used.
If COPD gets worse, you may need to get extra oxygen through a face mask or through a small tube that fits just inside your nose. This can be done in the hospital or at home.
Many people with COPD turn to dietary supplements and herbal medicine. N-acetylcyseine (NAC) is an antioxidant supplement that has shown promise in some studies to reduce phlegm and couch as it thins mucus. Also, people with COPD may not have enough vitamin D due to various factors so that supplement is often recommended. Ginseng, an herb with a long history of use in Chinese medicine is also often used to improve lung function. But always be sure to discuss any supplements with your doctor or health care professional so they can watch for side effects or interactions with your medications.