The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When it comes to living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases, there’s a lot of information to know. COPD is a complex condition, and it’s important to understand your condition, treatment plan and what procedures you may need. However, finding all of the COPD treatment information you need in one place can be challenging. Here’s what you need to know about COPD treatments.
COPD Treatment Guidelines
Your doctor will likely follow some COPD treatment guidelines. Typically, these guidelines include diagnosis, assessment, management of stable COPD and management and prevention of COPD flare-ups. Because COPD affects everyone differently and at varying rates of progression, your COPD treatment plan will be individualized for the best possible results.
Your doctor may recommend a chest x-ray, a CT scan, certain blood tests and pulmonary function testing, including a pulmonary function test, a 6-minute walk test and others. The information your doctor receives from these types of tests will help your doctor better understand your COPD, how it affects your life and what treatments could work best for you.
If you have low-blood oxygen levels, your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy to ensure you’re receiving enough oxygen. Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend you participate in pulmonary rehabilitation as well.
Developing a COPD Treatment Plan
You and your doctor will work together to develop the best COPD treatment plan for you. Your doctor will likely use information gathered from your lung function testing, exercise testing and medical history to help create your personalized COPD treatment plan. Over the course of your treatment, your doctor may need additional tests in order to closely monitor your COPD and how well your treatment is working.
Once your doctor has this information, he or she may also use it to categorize your COPD into stages. There are four total COPD stages, ranging from mild to very severe. The two most frequently used COPD staging systems are the GOLD System and the BODE Index.
- Stage 1: Very mild COPD with a FEV1 about 80 percent or more of normal.
- Stage 2: Moderate COPD with a FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal.
- Stage 3: Severe emphysema with FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal.
- Stage 4: Very severe COPD with a lower FEV1 than Stage 3, or those with Stage 3 FEV1 and low blood oxygen levels
The main difference between the GOLD System and the BODE Index is that the BODE Index also accounts for how COPD affects your life. BODE stands for body mass, airflow obstruction, dyspnea and exercise capacity.
Because COPD is a progressive condition, your stage of COPD will change over time. Knowing your current COPD stage will help your doctor determine the best course of treatment as well as what lifestyle modifications could benefit you the most.
While there isn’t a cure for COPD, there are a variety of COPD treatment options to help manage your symptoms, reduce inflammation and improve your quality of life. COPD treatments include medications, steroids, inhalers, anti-inflammatories and others. In the event of a COPD flare-up, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids and antibiotics as well.
Bronchodilators are commonly prescribed and used as a COPD treatment, and they relax your airways. Bronchodilators come in short and long-acting forms for both a quick relief of sudden symptoms as well as sustained management. There are two types of bronchodilators: beta-agonists and anticholinergics.
Beta-agonists work to relax tightened muscles in your airways, and anticholinergics help prevent the muscles around your airways from tightening and can help clear mucus from your lungs.
Your doctor may prescribe combination inhalers, which contain two different types of medication in the same inhaler or nebulizer. For example, some combination inhalers combine a bronchodilator with an inhaled steroid.
To help reduce inflammation and prevent COPD flare-ups, many doctors prescribe inhaled corticosteroids or oral steroids. If you have a respiratory infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Left untreated, infections could worsen your COPD symptoms, leading to a flare-up.
It’s important to see your doctor regularly even if you’re feeling well. Making sure you receive your flu and pneumonia vaccinations can also help prevent you from getting a serious COPD flare-up. Ask your doctor to discuss all of your COPD treatment options with you.
Natural COPD Treatments
Natural COPD treatments also work well in the management of COPD and the overall health of people. Natural COPD treatments are sometimes referred to as holistic or alternative treatments. Usually, the alternative treatments include lifestyle modifications, dietary supplements, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic care and stem cell therapy. These alternative COPD treatments can be used along with your prescribed medications.
Lifestyle modifications that can be beneficial to you include quitting smoking and remaining smoke-free, avoiding what triggers your COPD symptoms to worsen, getting plenty of exercise and eating lung-healthy foods.
Gentle exercises like yoga, Tai Chi and walking can help you build up your strength and stamina. It can also reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can make it easier to breathe.
For people with COPD, it’s important to make sure you receive enough vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins D, E and omega-3 fatty acids. There are plenty of herbs and dietary supplements that could help. For example, eucalyptus aids in expelling phlegm, and thyme is packed with antioxidant compounds.
COPD treatments can vary from traditional medications to alternative treatments, such as lifestyle modifications and stem cell therapy. Instead of only working to manage the symptoms of COPD, stem cell therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs, potentially addressing disease progression and improving lung function.
In fact, many patients report feeling better, breathing easier and living a more active lifestyle after stem cell treatment. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about your stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.