Expert Answers: How Do I Know if My COPD Treatment Is Working?

Expert Answers: How Do I Know if My COPD Treatment Is Working?

COPD is a condition that does not have a cure yet - however - it IS treatable. There are many treatments for COPD, and sometimes, it can be tough to know if your treatment is working. So, on behalf of our community, we asked our experts: How do I know if I’m on the right treatment? How do I know if my treatment is working? Check out what they had to say - and add your own thoughts in the comments!

Response from John
According to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) COPD guidelines, the ultimate goal of any COPD treatment program is to relieve and reduce the impact of symptoms and prevent future adverse health events like COPD flare-ups. In other words, are you able to live a normal functioning life with COPD? Or, are you satisfied with your current activity level? If diagnosed early, quitting smoking alone might accomplish these goals. Medicine has also shown to be helpful. Another option is pulmonary rehabilitation, which has shown to be helpful even for those in the early stages of the disease. The best way to determine if your current treatment program is working, or whether it needs to be tweaked, is to keep in touch with your COPD doctor.

Response from Leon
If your treatment regimen has been prescribed by your physician, especially if it is a physician who specializes in lung disease, (a pulmonologist), and the therapy, strategies and goals have been explained to you, you will probably realize and understand that you are on the 'right treatment'. Patient education by the physician and other health care providers will go a long way in helping you to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of your treatment regimen. Aspects of your care may include some or all of the following: smoking cessation plan, medication regimen, pulmonary rehabilitation program, regular exercise, oxygen therapy and even in some cases, specialized surgery.

The goal of COPD management and treatment is to improve your functional status and quality of life by preserving optimal lung function, improving symptoms, and preventing the recurrence of exacerbations. By actively participating in your treatment plan, you can insure and then gauge the actual success of it yourself. Since your COPD diagnosis, it's probably clearer to gauge if your functional lifestyle and symptoms are stable, the number of exacerbations has lessened, and the number of hospitalizations has decreased. Any significant change in any of the above is suggestive that a visit with your physician is necessary for you to be reassessed. At that time, a change to your treatment regimen will probably be made to address the change in your condition.

Response from Lyn
It isn’t always easy to know if you’re on the right treatment. Each person is unique and it sometimes
involves a little trial and error to find the exact program that will be right for you. In general, you should see a lessening of some of your symptoms, such as shortness of breath, perhaps an ability to walk longer distances, (even if it’s only a few more feet), and just a general improvement in your overall well-being. This will vary depending on the severity of your COPD, but you should notice at least some improvement.
It’s important to remember that some medications work over time. Maintenance medications such as Spiriva™, Advair™, and Symbicort™, to name just a few, need time to work. Others, such as Albuterol, are considered rescue medications and are meant to give immediate relief. Usually a doctor will prescribe both types of medications for COPD patients. If, after a reasonable amount of time, you don’t notice a difference, speak to your health care provider. Sometimes, just a change from one maintenance medication to another is all it takes. It’s essential that you continue to take your maintenance medications even when you’re feeling well. You may not realize how much they’re doing for you until you stop taking them and have an exacerbation of your COPD.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating - An excellent way to track improvement or worsening symptoms is through a COPD Action plan. A great idea is to have one made into an 8x10 magnet and hang it on your refrigerator, where you’ll see it every day. Here are a few links to the ones I like the best:

COPD Action Plan 1  COPD Action Plan 2  COPD Action Plan 3

What are your thoughts? Do you want to share your experiences with your COPD treatment? Please do, in the comments below!

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