If you or someone you know struggles with chronic coughing, shortness of breath, or severe chest pain, it could be a form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is one of the most common conditions in the world, affecting more than 15 million people in the United States alone.
Some types of COPD can be severely debilitating, and if not treated properly, the condition can shorten your life. Learn more about COPD and how it can be treated in the guide below.
What Is COPD?
COPD is an ongoing inflammation of the lungs and airways that results in restricted breathing. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease does not typically occur on its own. It is often caused by another underlying respiratory condition, or it develops in individuals with particular risk factors.
Risk factors include the following:
- Air pollutants
- Chronic bronchitis
People who have COPD can experience a range of symptoms that impact their quality of life. These symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and frequent respiratory infections.
Treatments for COPD
Proper and thorough treatment is necessary to minimize symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. The following are some of the most common ways to treat COPD:
Medication is the most frequently used approach when it comes to treating COPD. Numerous medications can alleviate the symptoms of COPD and make it easier to breathe, including these:
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
- Combined inhalers
- Inhaled steroids
- Oral steroids
Treating COPD with medication often requires a custom combination of treatments. The pulmonologist and a team of respiratory specialists will work with the patient to determine which combination of medications is the most effective for their symptoms.
One of the most effective ways to treat COPD and ease symptoms can be done entirely by the patient, without medical intervention. Simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference for people struggling with COPD. These changes include eating healthier and getting regular exercise. The most impactful change is quitting smoking.
Lung therapy is another common approach to COPD treatment. Therapeutic exercises can strengthen the lungs and expand the airways, making it easier to breathe. These methods include oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.
In severe cases, COPD may need to be treated with surgery. Surgical intervention is often necessary when the lungs have become too weakened and the airways have narrowed substantially.
One type of COPD surgery is lung volume reduction surgery. This procedure can remove damaged lung tissue and create extra space in the chest cavity so that the healthy portions of the lungs can take in more air.
A newer approach to COPD treatment is regenerative medicine. Methods like stem cell therapy could potentially reduce inflammation in the lungs and ease many of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.