Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term that describes a group of respiratory conditions characterized by a chronic - and frequently progressive - obstruction to the airflow, having as underlying disorders different degrees of chronic bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema. Symptoms of COPD include increased breathlessness, frequent coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. In order to diagnose COPD, your doctor may recommend multiple tests, including spirometry, chest x-rays, and arterial blood gas analysis, to get an understanding of how the lungs are functioning. A prompt diagnosis allows COPD patients to begin treatment early and slow the progression of the disease. Doctors typically recommend that patients stop smoking, avoid airborne irritants, and start using medications that dilate airways and ease breathing. In later stages, and depending on what disease you’re affected by, you may need surgery to improve lung functioning.
There are different types of treatments for COPD, and they are recommended based on the condition and on each individual case. Medications include controller and rescue medications: controller medicines work long term and are usually prescribed for everyday use, while rescue inhalers are used when the patient experiences an acute worsening of the respiratory symptoms, generally caused by an underlying respiratory infection. When COPD prevents lungs from getting oxygen, oxygen therapy might be included in your treatment plan. Other treatments for COPD involve breathing techniques, pulmonary rehabilitation, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplant are rarely used to treat COPD and only considered if the patient is suitable for the procedure and/or other non-surgical treatments have not been successful.