COPD Treatment: Everything You Need to Know About These Popular Treatments
When you’re diagnosed with any chronic condition, wading through all the information can be overwhelming. Do you entrust your condition solely to your physician, a pharmacist, or the internet?
Relying on your physician is generally recommended – but getting all your questions answered in one 15-minute appointment can be difficult and hard to absorb. And then what about all those questions that come up after the appointment that you wish you asked your physician?
Below, we’ve compiled general information about COPD treatment. It's important to know that there is no way a recommendation for any one person, but simply general information that may guide you in your COPD treatment journey.
What Is the Goal of COPD Treatment?
As you are probably well aware, COPD is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation and thickening of the tissues of the lungs. This means that there is poor oxygen exchange and the air that flows in and out of the lungs is decreased. It is also harder for the lungs to rid itself of carbon dioxide.
Thus, the goal of COPD treatment is to improve oxygenation and to improve the ability to breathe. COPD symptom management is also important, as is improving the patient’s quality of life.
What COPD Treatments Are Available?
There are a variety of COPD treatments available. Often your physician will use several types together to achieve optimal control of your COPD.
We will discuss the medications in greater detail throughout the article. Treatments for COPD include:
- Steroids (oral and inhaled)
- Combination inhalers
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
- Oxygen therapy
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
These medications are inhalers and they act by relaxing the muscles of the airways. By doing this, they allow more air into the lungs. Because of their mechanism of action, they improve shortness of breath and coughing.
Bronchodilators come in two forms:
- Long-acting: these work as long as 12 hours and are taken daily to prevent symptoms. Examples of long-acting bronchodilators include tiotropium (Spiriva), salmeterol (Serevent), and arformoterol (Brovana).
- Short-acting: these work quickly and their effect last for four to six hours. They are used when symptoms are present or before exercise. Examples of short-acting bronchodilators include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA), levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA), ipratropium (Atrovent), and ipratropium bromide and albuterol (Combivent).
Side effects of bronchodilators include dry mouth, headaches, constipation, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), shaking, and muscle cramps.