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Treating COPD Effectively

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

9 Things Your Doctor Wants You to Know About COPD

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Group of Doctors
    From the Experts
    If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know your top priority is to feel good every day. But how can you ease symptoms and maintain an active routine? Pulmonologists offer some straight talk on how to treat COPD and slow its progression. Here’s what the experts have to say.
  • Quit Smoking
    1. “Start working to kick the habit.”
    Many people with COPD have smoked heavily for years. Quitting isn’t easy, but it’s the best way to slow the progression of the disease. “Don’t ever quit quitting,” says pulmonologist Jaime Villanueva, MD. “It may take you eight or more times, but you can do it, and help is available. You’re only unsuccessful when you stop trying.” See your doctor if you have questions about quitting.
  • doctor-giving-shot-in-arm
    2. “Get your shots.”
    “Infection is one of the primary reasons COPD gets worse,” says Norman H. Edelman, MD, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association. “Do what you can to avoid infection. Get your yearly flu shot. Make sure you are up-to-date on immunizations. Wash your hands often. And stay away from people who are sick.” Your doctor can advise you about which immunizations to get and when to get them.
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  • inhalers
    3. “Learn how to use your inhaler.”
    Doctors often treat COPD with inhaled medications. But they aren’t as effective if you don’t use them the right way. “A large proportion of patients don’t use their inhaler correctly,” says pulmonologist Bhaven Shah, MD. “Even if you’ve been using an inhaler for years, demonstrate your technique to your doctor or pharmacist and make sure you’re doing it right.” If it is difficult for you to use an inhaler, ask about using a spacer.
  • medication
    4. “Continue your meds.”
    Inhaled medications don’t cure COPD, but they can keep symptoms under control, even when you’re not experiencing them. “Sometimes people stop using their inhaler when they feel better,” says Dr. Shah. “They need to realize they feel better because their medication is working.” Make sure you understand which medicines you need to take regularly and which ones are for quick relief of your symptoms.
  • portrait of smiling senior woman lifting hand weight
    5. “Get up and get moving.”
    Shortness of breath can make you want to hit the couch instead the treadmill. “But the more active you are, the better quality of life you’ll have,” says Dr. Villanueva. Don’t know where to start? A pulmonary rehabilitation program can teach you how to exercise safely, and most are covered by insurance. Talk with your doctor to see if you would benefit from this type of program, and ask about referrals.
  • oatmeal-with-apple
    6. “Your diet matters, too.”
    Proper nutrition is important for everyone because it can help manage your weight. “Being underweight is harmful to people with COPD because you need strong muscles to breathe better,” says Dr. Edelman. “Being overweight makes breathing more difficult. Talk with a dietitian or nutritionist to help you design a balanced diet.
  • oxygen tank, oxygen, breathing, air, portable oxygen tank,
    7. “Oxygen is essential.”
    If your doctor has prescribed supplemental oxygen, it’s important to use it. “Using your oxygen can prolong your life, reduce symptoms, and allow you to do more each day,” says Dr. Villanueva. “And contrary to what some believe, you can’t get addicted to oxygen.” Talk with your doctor about the types of oxygen equipment and find one that works for your lifestyle.
  • black man wearing glasses using smartphone on running trail
    8. “Call us sooner.”
    If you have a COPD flare-up—such as increased shortness of breath, coughing, increased sputum, or changes in sputum color—call your doctor. “We can better treat a COPD flare-up if you call before symptoms become too severe,” says Dr. Shah. “By calling early, you can avoid a hospital visit.”
  • Young woman wearing rings writing in journal on train
    9. “Write it all down.”
    Patients often report how they’re doing to their doctor based on symptoms they experience in the days right before their office visit. “If you have severe COPD, it can be helpful to keep a monthly symptom diary and bring it with you to your appointment,” advises Dr. Edelman. A diary will help you remember details about your health and clearly communicate them to your doctor.
9 Things Your Doctor Wants You to Know About COPD
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.