The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When you’re searching for the COPD treatment guidelines, you may feel like it’s difficult to find the information you’re looking for all in one place. With more than one way to categorize COPD into stages and a variety of treatments, many people feel confused about their options. There are a few steps that are part of the COPD treatment guidelines, such as diagnosis, assessment and management of COPD and flare-ups. We’re here to help you find the information you need regarding COPD treatment guidelines.
This first step in any form of COPD treatment guidelines is for someone experiencing difficulty breathing, chronic cough, sputum or phlegm production and a history of exposure to risk factors, like smoking, to be evaluated for a COPD diagnosis.
In order for your doctor to make a clinical diagnosis, spirometry, which is part of a pulmonary function test, will likely be required. A spirometer is a device with a mouthpiece hooked up to a small machine. A pulmonary function test measures how your lungs are working.
Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume (FEV) are two metrics that doctors commonly use from spirometry to help them make a COPD diagnosis. FVC is the amount of air exhaled forcefully and quickly after inhaling as much as you can. FEV is the amount of air expired (or blown out) during the first, second and third second of the FVC test.
Depending on what your spirometry results show, your doctor will be able to confirm the presence of COPD.
Assessment of COPD
After a COPD diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will then assess what your stage of COPD is. At this point, your doctor will consider your COPD symptoms, your degree of airflow limitation gathered from your spirometry results, your risk for COPD flare-ups and if you have any other conditions such as heart disease, anxiety, depression, skeletal/ muscular diseases and others.
To figure out what COPD stage you’re currently in, your doctor may use the GOLD System and the BODE Index. The GOLD System uses the metrics from your spirometry to place COPD into stages, and the BODE Index takes your body mass index, airflow obstruction, difficulty breathing and exercise tolerance to place COPD into stages.
Management of Stable COPD
Because COPD affects everyone differently and at different rates of progression, developing an individualized treatment plan is important in the management of COPD. Your doctor will keep track of your stable COPD symptoms, and he or she may consider future risks.
You and your doctor will work together to develop the best COPD treatment plan for you. Your plan may include treatments to reduce or relieve symptoms, improve your quality of life, increase exercise tolerance, slow disease progression, prevent and treat flare-ups and improve overall health.
Pharmacological COPD Treatment
Your doctor will likely prescribe medications and inhalers to help you breathe with more ease. Bronchodilators are often prescribed for people with COPD. Typically, bronchodilators are taken through an inhaler, so the medication goes straight into your lungs. Bronchodilators are a type of medicine used to relax your airways, which helps them stay open.
There are two types of bronchodilators: beta-agonists and anticholinergics. Beta-agonists work to relax tightened muscles in your airways, making your airways wider. Anticholinergics help prevent the muscles around your airways from tightening. They can also help clear mucus from your lungs. Bronchodilators come in short-acting and long-acting forms.
Inhaled steroids and oral steroids may also be prescribed to help reduce inflammation and prevent flare-ups. Combination inhalers are a type of medication that contains two different types of medicine in the same inhaler or nebulizer solution. For example, certain medications combine bronchodilators and inhaled steroids.
Non-pharmacological COPD Treatment
Often called alternative COPD treatments, non-pharmacological treatments can include a variety of lifestyle modifications and alternative therapies. One of the most important steps in a COPD treatment plan is quitting smoking. While it’s challenging, smoking cessation is essential to improving your quality of life.
Staying physically fit and eating a lung-healthy diet are also important to people with COPD. Being underweight or overweight can make living with COPD more difficult. Gentle exercises such as walking, yoga and Tai Chi are excellent forms of exercise. Eating lean proteins like baked chicken and steamed shrimp as well as eating vitamin-packed oranges, apples and almond milk can help you receive the nutrients you need without aggravating COPD symptoms.
Many patients also turn to alternative COPD treatments, such as chiropractic care, acupuncture and herbal supplements to help them feel better. One type of alternative treatment is stem cell therapy, which works to promote healing from within the lungs. After stem cell treatment, many patients report being able to reduce or come off their oxygen therapy. They are able regain their quality of life and live a more active lifestyle, breathing easier.
Some patients may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a program designed to help people with chronic lung diseases improve their overall quality of life. During the program, people will perform exercises and breathing techniques under medical supervision. They will also have access to nutritional counseling and emotional support.
For people with low blood oxygen levels, oxygen therapy or supplemental oxygen may be recommended. Oxygen is essential to a properly functioning body, so you may need oxygen therapy to ensure you’re getting enough oxygen. Your doctor will monitor your blood oxygen levels and may advise you to purchase an at-home pulse oximeter. With an at-home pulse oximeter, you’ll be able to monitor your oxygen levels from your home.
Management of COPD Flare-ups
Staying up-to-date on your flu and pneumonia vaccines is essential to any COPD treatment guidelines. Because the flu, pneumonia and other illnesses can cause COPD symptoms to worsen, prevention of flare-ups is essential for any COPD treatment guidelines.
It’s important to see your doctor regularly even if you’re feeling well. However, it’s especially important to see your doctor right away if you notice a change in your lung health, COPD symptoms or overall health. If you get sick, you may need treatment with antibiotics or other types of medications. For severe illnesses or severe COPD flare-ups, your doctor may admit you to the hospital.
Bringing the COPD Treatment Guidelines Together for Your Best Health
With COPD diagnosis, assessment, management of COPD and flare-ups, you and your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan for you. We hope that following these COPD treatment guidelines and learning more about your options are helpful. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease, feel free to contact us at (800) 729-3065 to learn more about your stem cell treatment options.