COPD, otherwise known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a type of lung disease that involves lung damage, making it difficult to breathe. COPD is categorised into two forms: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The main difference between the two is that chronic bronchitis is accompanied by a frequent cough with mucus, while emphysema is characterised by shortness of breath.
There is presently no cure for COPD, but that doesn’t mean the condition can’t be treated to manage the symptoms and prevent them from worsening. This article will look into the most common treatments utilized inside and outside of the hospital setting for COPD today:
- Changes to lifestyle
Patients with COPD are encouraged to make their own lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Quitting smoking and avoiding air pollution as much as possible is essential for maintaining lung health. Patients are also advised to follow a healthy diet and engage in a manageable level of exercise.
- Oxygen therapy
One of the most challenging symptoms of COPD is its ability to interfere with a patient’s breathing. Without enough oxygen in the blood, patients may experience hypoxia, a potentially fatal condition which can cause cell death, brain damage, and heart problems. Oxygen devices are essential for delivering oxygen into the lungs of patients with COPD, said Sensoronics. A lot of these devices are small and portable, and can be used all the time.
Bronchodilators are most commonly given to COPD patients in inhaler form. When a patient inhales the medication inside of the device, it passes through the airways and straight into the lungs. The purpose of the medication is to open constricted airways, making it easier to breathe. Bronchodilators use either β-agonists, which are used in COPD flare-ups, and Anticholinergic medications, which block a chemical that causes airways to constrict.
Corticosteroids are a type of steroid hormone that are similar to cortisol, a hormone that the body produces naturally. For COPD patients, corticosteroids can reduce swelling and irritation in airways, improving breathing. They’re usually delivered by inhaler or in tablet form, and can be handy for fast relief after exposure to an infection or irritant such as smoke or chemical fumes.
Antibiotics aren’t used to treat COPD itself; rather, respiratory infections that could worsen COPD symptoms. Patients with an infection are usually prescribed antibiotics from their doctor to kill the bacteria responsible. Note that antibiotics are only effective at targeting bacteria, and other medications will be required to treat viral infections.
- Surgery options
In more advanced cases of COPD, surgery may be required to ease symptoms and improve patient wellbeing. One common surgery is lung volume reduction surgery, where a doctor removes damaged areas of lung tissue to improve the functioning of the lungs. Failing this, a doctor may recommend a lung transplant, in which damage lungs are replaced with healthy donor lungs. Lung transplants come with a high risk, but if surgery goes well, they can greatly improve quality of life.