• Treatment - COPD

    Although most cases of COPD are preventable, it cannot be cured. Once lung damage occurs, treatment focuses on preventing additional damage, reducing symptoms of the disease, and enhancing the quality of daily activities.

    The disability from COPD can cause dramatic changes to your quality of life; treatment of its symptoms, prevention of complications, and progression of the disease require attention to a variety of behaviors. Because of these factors, some people seek out their treatment through a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program. These programs provide guidance and support as you learn to manage your COPD through medications, good nutrition, appropriate exercise, and good lifestyle choices. These programs work well for some people and may help optimize quality of life.

    Managing COPD

    Preventive Strategies

    If you're a smoker, the first and most important thing you should do is stop smoking. This will slow the progress of the disease and make it easier for you to breathe than if you continued to smoke. In addition, do your best to avoid the second-hand smoke of others and other lung irritants (e.g., air pollution, chemicals or dust) that can worsen your symptoms. Other preventive tips include:

    • Losing weight, if necessary, as excess weight requires you to breath more to accomplish the same amount of physical activity
    • Getting a flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine to reduce your risk of contracting the flu or pneumonia, respectively
    • Seeking treatment for potential chest infections as early as possible, as COPD impairs your lungs' defense mechanisms and causes infections to linger
    • Using respiratory therapy devices (e.g., inhalers, nebulizers and oxygen) as instructed


    As a COPD patient, your doctor may recommend you use any of the following types of medications:

    • Bronchodilators: These medications open your airways by relaxing the surrounding muscles. They may be administered as pills, liquid or inhalers.
    • Steroids: Inhaled steroids are used to help reduce airway inflammation and are typically administered to patients with moderate or severe COPD.
    • These medications may be used on a trial basis for six weeks to three months so their effectiveness in alleviating breathing difficulties can be determined.
    • Oxygen: Oxygen therapy is recommended to patients with severe COPD who are struggling with shortness of breath. This therapy will help to maintain appropriate oxygen levels in the blood, thereby prolonging your life, protecting your heart and other vital organs from damage, improving your sleep patterns at night and mental alertness during the day, and making it easier to complete activities of daily living.

     Pulmonary Rehabilitation

    Your physician may recommend that you participate in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. This coordinated program typically includes aspects such as education on COPD, disease management training (coping strategies), nutrition advice, exercise and counseling. A number of health care professionals—doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, exercise physiologists and dietitians—collaborate, as a team, to provide you with the comprehensive care you need. 

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