While there is no cure for COPD, there are several COPD treatment options that you can explore with your physician. Read more below for information about COPD lung therapy, new COPD medications, COPD natural treatment, and more. For COPD causes, risk factors, symptoms, and more general information about COPD, click here.
COPD Treatment Options
Lifestyle Changes for COPD
First and foremost, if you have COPD and you smoke, you should stop smoking. The cessation of smoking is the biggest lifestyle change that can help treat COPD—this is considered a natural treatment and should be done immediately upon diagnosis. In addition to kicking the nicotine addiction, people with COPD should avoid secondhand smoke and places that contain possible COPD triggers.
Common COPD triggers include dust, harmful fumes, and other irritants. These can cause further lung damage and exacerbate symptoms, resulting in more frequent and severe COPD flare-ups. For some people with mild COPD, lifestyle changes may be adequate treatment. For others, they aren’t enough to help them find relief… but they’re a great start!
Medications for COPD
Prescribing medication for COPD management may be the first step in your COPD treatment plan after lifestyle changes have been explored. Some medications are taken on a regular basis, while others are taken as needed.
Bronchodilators for COPD
A bronchodilator is a type of medication used to treat COPD. This medication dilates and relaxes the muscles around your airways, which decreases any resistance due to swelling or damage, thereby causing an increase in airflow to your lungs. Bronchodilators come in both short-acting and long-acting forms.
Short-acting bronchodilators commonly prescribed for COPD treatment include:
- Albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, others)
- Levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA)
- Ipratropium (Atrovent)
Long-acting bronchodilators often prescribed for treating COPD include:
- Tiotropium (Spiriva)
- Salmeterol (Serevent)
- Formoterol (Foradil, Perforomist)
- Arformoterol (Brovana)
- Indacaterol (Arcapta)
- Aclidinium (Tudorza)
Inhaled Corticosteroids for COPD Treatment
A corticosteroid is a medication that’s used to lessen inflammation in the body. Inhaled corticosteroid medication is often prescribed for people who have frequent COPD flare-ups/ exacerbations. Common corticosteroid medications prescribed for COPD patients include:
- Fluticasone (Flovent HFA, Flonase, others)
- Budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler, Uceris, others)
There are some COPD medications that combine both bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. These medications include:
- Salmeterol and fluticasone (Advair)
- Formoterol and budesonide (Symbicort)
Oral Steroids for COPD Treatment
For short-term use (typically 5 or fewer days), oral steroids are beneficial for patients who have moderate to severe acute (sudden) COPD exacerbations. Long-term use of oral steroids is not recommended as it can lead to side effects such as significant weight gain, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cataracts.
Preventative Vaccines for COPD
There is no vaccination against COPD, but getting annual flu and pneumonia vaccines can reduce your risk of contracting both the flu and pneumonia. Both of these conditions can cause complications and further damage to the lungs of COPD patients. Having COPD increases your chance of getting pneumonia, so getting the vaccine regularly can help decrease your chances of contracting it.
Other Medication for COPD Patients
Roflumilast (Daliresp) is a new type of medication for COPD. This medication relaxes and decreases inflammation in the airways. An inexpensive medication option for treating COPD is Theophylline – shown to improve breathing and prevent COPD exacerbations.
Respiratory Therapy for COPD
Lung therapies for COPD are often used for people suffering from moderate to severe COPD.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for COPD
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program that helps treat and manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Programs typically include several areas of therapy including exercise and nutritional, psychological, and disease management training.
Patients who undergo pulmonary rehabilitation to treat COPD often have shorter hospital stays and an overall improved quality of life, so it is an excellent treatment choice.
Oxygen Therapy for COPD
COPD affects your breathing and can therefore impact the levels of oxygen in your blood. During oxygen therapy for COPD, oxygen is delivered through a mask or nasal prongs. Since oxygen therapy increases blood oxygen levels, this helps you feel better. Oxygen therapy for COPD can either be continuous or performed at regular intervals throughout the day.
Lung Surgery for COPD
In some cases, lung surgery for COPD may be an option. This is typically a last resort for COPD sufferers with severe symptoms and those who haven’t benefited from any of the COPD treatments and therapies mentioned above. The most common COPD surgery options are:
A lung bullectomy is when a surgeon removes one or more bullae that have formed in the lungs. A bullae is a large air space that forms when the walls of the lung air sacs are destroyed.
Lung Volume Reduction Surgery for COPD
During lung volume reduction surgery, a surgeon removes any damaged tissue from the lungs. This can be helpful for patients with COPD.
In rare cases, a COPD patient will need a lung transplant. During transplant, a surgeon removes the damaged lung and replaces it with a healthy lung taken from an organ donor.
Treating COPD Flare-Ups/Exacerbations
When you find yourself having a COPD flare-up/exacerbation, you might need additional medication, therapy, or oxygen. Talk to your doctor about developing the best COPD treatment plan so you can best manage your condition and continue living a happy and healthy life.
Dr. Michael Czarnecki: COPD Treatment Specialist
Dr. Michael Czarnecki—”The Lung Doc”—is a board-certified pulmonary physician by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is trained in all areas of pulmonary health, including the treatment of COPD. Whether you suspect you have COPD or require treatment for your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Dr. Mike can help. To book an appointment with Dr. Mike, call 423-710-3864 or request an appointment online.