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Treatment For Early Stage COPD

There are 4 stages of COPD. Stages 1 and 2 are the “Early Stages.” Many people in these early stages are undiagnosed. Many feel no symptoms at all. But, studies show that an early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression of this disease.1-3 So, if you have early-stage COPD, and you are properly diagnosed, here’s how you may be treated.

COPD education is key

So, you have your diagnosis. The next objective of your care team is to educate you about your disease. In many cases, this is not so easy. This is especially true if you are having a hard time accepting your diagnosis. So, the first order of business may be to help you come to terms with your diagnosis and to develop a good attitude towards it.4-5

Your doctor, your care team, must be open and honest with you. They must teach you as much about this disease as possible. You have this disease. This is what this disease entails. If you develop a good attitude about your disease, we can work together to slow its progression.4-5

Lifestyle changes are the main treatment in this stage

One example of a lifestyle change is quitting smoking if you smoke. Many studies have shown that quitting smoking can prolong your life. But, only 50% of people with COPD are current or former smokers.3

So, another example of a lifestyle change is avoiding air pollutants, such as those at your work. One way of doing this is by wearing a mask if you work around dust or fumes. Another is by getting a different job that doesn’t require you to inhale pollutants.

As you might imagine (or some of you probably know already) making lifestyle changes like these can be very difficult. But, making these changes is an important part of treating early-stage COPD. In most instances, making lifestyle changes is all that is needed to slow the progression of the disease if caught in the early stages.3

Another example of a treatment strategy is using medicine

And, I suppose, you can consider taking medicine a lifestyle change too, if you never took medicine before. But, if you have mild symptoms, COPD medicines may allay them. Some COPD medicines are just used when you feel symptoms.

These medicines are meant to allay your symptoms. Other COPD medicines are taken every day. These are meant to keep your airways open long-term to prevent symptoms from occurring. Finding out what medicines, or what combination of medicines, work best for you is often a matter of trial and error.

Exercise and diet may also help

Pulmonary rehabilitation is often prescribed for those in the later stages (stages 3-4) of COPD. But, some studies show it may benefit people in these early stages too. If your doctor doesn’t recommend it, all people in these early stages should be highly encouraged to stay physically active. Exercising 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes was shown to slow the progression of the disease.3

Diet may also be helpful. Some studies show that a healthy diet may also slow the progression of COPD. For this reason, your doctor may recommend that you talk to a dietician. This person will help you plan meals and learn about what foods are best for you. This diet may include lots of fruits and vegetables. It may also include low inflammatory foods. It may involve eating frequent smaller meals, as opposed to three larger ones. So, a dietician can help you get the most out of the foods you eat.3-4

What to make of this information on early stage COPD?

So, you are diagnosed in the early stages of COPD. You are diagnosed in stages 1 or 2. It can definitely be a shock to learn you have a chronic lung disease. But, the good news is you were diagnosed early, and the progression of this disease can be slowed. It can be slowed enough to allow you to live a good, quality life for many years. The key now is to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works best for you. And then you must follow this treatment plan to the best of your ability.4

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Decramer, Marc, et al., “New horizons in early stage COPD -- improving knowledge detection and treatment,” Respiratory Medicine, 2011, November, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0954611110005603, accessed 7/8/18
  2. “Stage 1 COPD: Mild Stage COPD and You,” Lung Institute, 2016, October 10, https://lunginstitute.com/blog/stage-1-copd-mild-stage-copd/, accessed 7/14/18
  3. Chee, Alex, Don D. Sin, “Treatment of mild obstructive pulmonary disease,” International Journal of Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 2008, December, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2650603/, accessed 7/14/18
  4. “Early Symptoms of COPD: What Are Your Next Steps,” 2017, July 24, https://lunginstitute.com/blog/early-symptoms-of-copd/, accessed 7/16/18
  5. Panos, Ralph J.,  William L. Eschenbacher, “A COPD Primer,” 2015, Page 376

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