Currently, there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). However, there are numerous treatments and therapies available to manage the symptoms of the disease. Of course, treatment options and strengths depend on the severity of each patient’s case.
First and foremost, it is imperative that patients stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. Those who quit regain lung function, while those who continue smoking suffer deteriorating lung health. In fact, there is a high chance of regaining normal lung function subsequent to a year of smoking cessation.
(For more information, you can also see: Drugs Used to Treat COPD)
The following is a list of medications available for COPD patients:
COPD patients have narrowed airways that tighten and cause choking, gasping and shortness of breath. Bronchodilators relax the smooth muscle around the airways of the lungs and expand the airways so that oxygen flows more easily. Some bronchodilators offer immediate short-term relief (short acting) and others take more time to achieve results but last longer once they begin to work (long acting).
Short acting beta 2 agonists/short acting bronchodilators:
These are prescribed for use when needed. They take about fifteen minutes to begin working. Examples include: the combination drug Combivent® (albuterol and ipatropium), as well as the independent drugs Atrovent (ipatropium), Proair, Proventil HFA, Xopenex (levalbuterol), Maxair (pirbuterol) and Ventolin HFA (albuterol).
Beta 2 Agonists/long acting bronchodilators:
These drugs are used on a normal basis as opposed to when breathing becomes difficult. Examples include: Foradil (formoterol), Serevent (salmeterol) and Spiriva (tiotropium).
Combination of long acting bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs:
Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation of the airways. The drugs that accomplish this are corticosteroids and corticosteroid pills. Combining the anti-inflammatory agent with a long acting bronchodilator offers two types of treatment in one medicinal treatment. Examples include: Advair (Serevent, the long acting bronchodilator and Flovent, the anti-inflammatory) and Symbicort (Foradil, the long acting bronchodilator and Pulmicort, the anti-inflammatory).
While bronchodilators deal with small airways, anticolinergics deal with the relaxing the smooth muscles of the larger airways of the lungs. Examples of anticolinergics include: Oxivent (oxitropium bromide) and atrovent (ipratropium bromide).
To reduce the inflammation of the airways in the lungs and improve the quality and ease of breathing, anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed. These do not offer immediate relief in an emergency, and are prescribed to take on an ongoing basis. The types of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids treatments for COPD are taken via an inhaler or in pill or syrup form.
Inhaled corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs:
Taken via inhaler or nebulizer. The corticosteroid medication is in liquid form and is breathed in when receiving nebulizer or inhaler treatment. Examples of are the following: Pulmicort (budesonide), Asmanex (mometasone), QVAR (beclomethasone) and Flovent (fluticasone).
Corticosteroid pills or syrups:
Taken orally as opposed to via inhaler or nebulizer.
For those who require quick relief in the case of a COPD exacerbation or asthma attack, COPD patients would take short acting drugs. The following fast-acting medications would be used to relax the smooth muscle of the airways and open the airways to allow more airflow and easier breathing:
- Short acting anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drugs
- Short acting beta agonist bronchodilators
A key practice for COPD treatment is the inhalation of medication. These drugs are inhaled directly into the diseased lungs so that treatment can begin taking place more quickly. By inhaling the medications directly into the lungs, less is engrossed in the bloodstream.The use of inhalation devices should be practiced as follows: first exhale away from the device, then put mouthpiece into mouth and quickly inhale.
Devices used for oxygen therapy and inhaled drugs:
Air compressor machine releases a mist of medication that is easy to inhale. Adults use a mouthpiece for inhalation while children wear a face mask.
Releases a mist of medication through a pressurized canister. The mist is easily inhaled.
Dry powder inhalers:
Deliver medication doses that are in powder form. Breathing must be done quickly to ensure inhalation of the powdered medication.
Supplemental oxygen/oxygen therapy:
To improve oxygen flow, people with hypoxemia (low levels of blood oxygen) carry around supplemental oxygen tanks. This ensures oxygen flow to the brain to improve mental functioning and throughout the body to improve physical functioning. Oxygen is delivered trough nasal prongs or an oxygen therapy mask.
Therapeutic pulmonary rehabilitation programs assist patients in better breathing techniques to enable these patients to perform their daily occupations with less or without any shortness of breath. Patients with chronic pulmonary diseases usually spend about eight weeks undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation. Some programs offer inpatient therapy sessions while others offer outpatient services.
- There are COPD patients who receive lung transplants for a chance of living with healthy lungs.
- Some patients undergo lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) to remove damaged lung tissue and improve lung function. LVRS has proven successful in improving patients’ abilities to breathe and exercise.
- Another type of lung surgery is a bullectomy, in which bullae (large air spaces that interfere with breathing) are removed.
Each patient has his own unique case of COPD. Therefore, each patient will have his own treatment regimen that is appropriate for him, as deemed by his health professional. If you have already been tested for COPD, speak with your doctor today to develop the best-suited drug and therapy regimen for you.