Treating and Managing COPD

When someone is diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the next step is to create a plan for treating and managing the disease and symptoms. Doctors work with people to craft a personalized treatment plan just for them. To design the plan, they use general COPD treatment guidelines that have been developed by experts after years of research about the best ways to treat the disease.1

Each person’s personal COPD treatment plan is unique. This is because each person can have a different medical history and set of current symptoms. The severity of symptoms is also unique to each person. A treatment plan may include:

What kinds of medicines are used to treat COPD?

People with COPD are usually prescribed medicines that can help to:1

  • Control and relieve COPD symptoms
  • Prevent and treat COPD flare-ups
  • Improve the ability to exercise and increase overall health

Most people with COPD take at least 1 medicine. Many will take several medicines that work in different ways. The types of medicines often used to treat COPD include:

What is oxygen therapy?

The damage caused by COPD can prevent the lungs from absorbing enough oxygen during breathing. This can cause the level of oxygen in a person's blood to be too low. Some people with COPD need oxygen therapy to supply extra oxygen to their lungs. This ensures they have enough oxygen in the bloodstream.2

During this therapy, the oxygen may be delivered from a container through a face mask, through small tubes in the nostrils, or through a tube placed into the trachea (windpipe). Some people need long-term oxygen therapy all or most of the time. Others only need short-term oxygen therapy to treat an infection or flare-up.2

What kinds of surgery can be used to treat COPD?

Surgery is a treatment option for some people with COPD. It is more common among people who have a more advanced stage of COPD. The types of surgeries used to treat COPD include:1,3

  • Bullectomy, in which 1 or more destroyed air sacs (bullae) are removed
  • Lung volume reduction surgery, in which the diseased portion of the lung is removed
  • Lung transplant, in which 1 or both lungs are replaced with a donor's lungs

What is a pulmonary rehabilitation program?

Taking part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program is very important for people with COPD. During the program, people learn useful information about lung function and COPD. They also learn how to control and manage their symptoms.

A pulmonary rehabilitation program may include:4

  • Breathing techniques
  • Exercise tips
  • Weight management
  • Nutrition
  • Coping with the emotional impact of COPD

What kinds of natural remedies do some people with COPD use?

Some people with COPD use natural remedies as complementary therapies to help reduce COPD symptoms. They are considered complementary because they are used along with regular prescription drugs and therapies, not instead of them. Always talk to your doctor before trying complementary or natural remedies. Your doctor can help you decide if they are right for you.

Some natural remedies used by people with COPD include:5

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Written by: Anna Nicholson & Emily Downward | Last reviewed: August 2021