Living With COPD

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2015

Life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be very challenging at times. The symptoms of COPD can affect many different parts of patients’ lives, and can sometimes make it more difficult for them to take part in everyday activities they enjoy.

The number-one way that a COPD patient can improve his or her quality of life is to quit smoking. For more information about how to quit smoking click here. However, there are many other steps that people with COPD can take to help manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

How can I reduce the risk of COPD flare-ups?

One of the main challenges to living with COPD is the risk of acute exacerbations, or COPD flare-ups, which happen when COPD symptoms such as breathlessness and wheezing suddenly get worse. These flare-ups can be very frightening. But by avoiding exposure to irritants that can trigger flare-ups, people living with COPD can stay healthier and reduce their risk of exacerbations. Such irritants include tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and poor air quality in the home or workplace. For more information on reducing risks, see here.

How can medicines help manage COPD symptoms?

Taking all prescribed COPD medications as directed by your healthcare provider is a very important way to help control and reduce the symptoms of COPD. Depending on the patient’s individual needs, these may include maintenance medications to improve symptoms over time, and/or rescue inhalers to treat flare-ups quickly. For more information on the types of medication click here.

Are there other kinds of treatments for COPD?

Other than medications, there are other types of treatments that can help patients manage their COPD. Some people can improve their symptoms with oxygen therapy and others can benefit from special kinds of surgery. Other options that may help for some COPD patients are natural remedies such as acupuncture and supplements.

Why should I take part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program?

When a person is diagnosed with COPD, his or her healthcare provider will recommend taking part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. These programs can help people living with COPD to learn more about their condition and how to manage the symptoms in the best possible way.

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs cover a variety of strategies that people living with COPD can use to help reduce their symptoms, make breathing easier, and feel better overall. Patients learn how to use special breathing strategies to reduce the breathlessness that COPD can cause. Another part of the program is learning about the importance of regular exercise, and how to start an exercise routine and stick with it. They also receive advice about how to eat a healthy diet to feel better and maintain a healthy weight.

Creating a COPD Self-Management Plan and preparing for emergencies are two other key parts of a pulmonary rehabilitation program. They are important tools for helping people living with COPD to take an active role in managing the disease.

How can I get help in dealing with the emotional impact of living with COPD?

Living with COPD can be frightening, especially during flare-ups, and it can cause a person to experience a range of emotions that can be overwhelming and difficult to cope with at times. Many patients develop anxiety and/or depression due to the challenges of life with the disease. Healthcare providers can assist patients in seeking help about how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way. Counseling and support groups can give COPD patients a way to connect with other patients who are dealing with similar struggles and emotions.

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