Most patients when first diagnosed with COPD struggle psychologically. When you are told, you have a progressive lung disease which has no cure it can be overwhelming.
However, while hard, it’s important to acknowledge you have COPD so you can start the fight against it. Learning as much as you can about COPD is an excellent way to start your journey and will put you in good stead to achieve some quality of life.
While there is no cure for COPD, more and more research is coming out about how the disease progress can be slowed. Putting together a COPD action plan with your healthcare professional is a major step early on in your diagnosis. We now know the earlier a patient is diagnosed, the better outcomes they will have.
Progression through the COPD stages can differ from patient to patient, and it is important from a patient’s perspective not to concern themselves too much with the stage they are at.
My own experience is a good example. I am considered GOLD 4 – very severe, yet I have completed numerous endurance events since being diagnosed. There are much more patients from a variety of age groups and disease severity who lead a better quality of life than their diagnosis may suggest.
What End Stage Means for You
It certainly sounds like a morbid prognosis, but stage four COPD (or “end stage”) doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at the end of your life. The clinical term is really to help doctors predict a patient’s risk of exacerbations, so they can choose an appropriate treatment plan for better symptom control.
It’s natural to be afraid, angry and sad when given an end-stage diagnosis, but if you learn the steps you can take to prolong your life, you can eliminate some of the fear and uncertainty.
Inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids can bring lasting increases in lung function, pulmonary rehabilitation programs can improve your energy and mobility, and a good action plan can help you prevent and overcome exacerbations quickly to prevent further lung damage.
Even though there is no cure for COPD, you still have the power to improve and sustain your life, so don’t give up.
When it comes to COPD treatment options for managing your condition, I think it’s important to separate traditional and non-traditional options.
- Smoking cessation – The number one priority if you’re still smoking when diagnosed.
- Medication – Doctors will determine your diagnosis and severity what medications are most suitable for you.
- Exercise – Activity is vital when diagnosed with COPD. Studies have shown patients who remain active will enjoy a better quality of life than those who are sedentary. Pulmonary rehabilitation is an excellent way to learn what exercises are suitable for you as well as connecting with other patients.
- Breathing exercises – This type of exercise may help with strengthening airways and your lungs at the same time.
- Lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of exposure to triggers of COPD is beneficial – Wood heating and cooking should be eliminated from the house to avoid inhaling smoke and fumes. Limiting contact with chemicals should also be avoided as this can cause a sudden increase in breathlessness.
- Surgery – There are some surgical options which can be considered for a COPD patient. If other treatments are not working this maybe something to discuss with your doctor.
- Vaccinations – Flu and pneumonia vaccinations are strongly recommended for COPD patients. Contracting either illness can be catastrophic for patients as the disease has already weakened their lungs. The vaccinations are no guarantee you will not become ill, but they are the best defense available at this stage.
- Oxygen therapy – For patients who have problems with a gas exchange within their lungs oxygen therapy is beneficial. Oxygen is given to a patient via many available devices. Having oxygen therapy can give a patient more mobility and reduce the time they are homebound.
These are the most common traditional treatments for managing COPD. Availability, costs, and access can vary between countries due partly to healthcare systems and insurance. So keep this in mind when researching the above treatments.
- Chinese medicine – Chinese medicine doctors use ancient traditional herbal remedies to help manage COPD.
- Vitamin Supplements – If you read enough information on the internet, you’ll find most vitamin supplements are recommended for everyone, whether you have a disease or not. Do your research and consult with your doctor before committing to a supplement regime.
- Medical Marijuana – It was a hot topic at the moment and discussed in many COPD patient forums. While there are some studies which support possible benefits of using medical marijuana for its anti-inflammatory effects we’re a long way from it being a widely used therapy.
- Salt Therapy – This is another therapy which has been the subject of much discussion in patient groups. Salt treatments are supposed to kill bacteria in the lungs and liquefy mucus. At this stage, there is little evidence to support these claims.
- Ketogenic Diet – Recent research has shown this diet to have therapeutic effects for some diseases. For COPD, the diet improved pulmonary function and overall quality of life.
Those of you who have followed my journey would know I like to try different strategies in order to help improve my overall quality of life.
Remember this, anything I seek is done in consultation with healthcare professionals, and I strongly advise other patients to do the same before trying any treatment because each treatment works differently for each individual.
Your healthcare professional will help you find and tailor a treatment that works for your symptoms and your COPD stage.