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. Healthcare providers work with patients 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, because each individual can have a different medical history and set of current symptoms, as well as the severity of their symptoms. The treatment plan might include:

What kinds of medications are used to treat COPD?

People with COPD are usually prescribed medications that can help to:

  • Control and relieve COPD symptoms
  • Prevent and treat COPD flare-ups
  • Improve the ability to exercise and increase overall health1

Most people with COPD have at least one medication, and many will have several different medicines that work in different ways. The types of medications that are often used to treat COPD include:

What is oxygen therapy?

The damage caused by COPD can prevent the lungs from absorbing enough oxygen during the process of breathing. This can cause the level of oxygen in a patient’s blood to be too low. Some people with COPD need oxygen therapy to supply extra oxygen to their lungs, to make sure that 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 disease. The types of surgeries that can be used to treat COPD are:

  • Bullectomy, in which one or more destroyed air sacs (called bullae) are removed
  • Lung volume reduction surgery, in which the diseased portion of the lung is removed
  • Lung transplant, in which one or both lungs are replaced with a donor's1,3

What is a pulmonary rehabilitation program?

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

A pulmonary rehabilitation program may include:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Exercise tips
  • Weight management
  • Nutrition
  • Coping with the emotional impact of COPD4

What kinds of natural remedies do some COPD patients use?

Some people with COPD use natural remedies as complementary therapies to help reduce COPD symptoms. They are considered complementary because they are used in addition to the patient’s regular prescription medications and therapies, not instead of them. The use of complementary therapies or natural remedies should always be discussed with the doctor who coordinates all of the individual's care.5 Some of the natural remedies used by people with COPD include:

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Written by: Anna Nicholson & Emily Downward | Last reviewed: August 2020