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Manage your COPD, don’t let your COPD manage your life

(BPT) – Of the top five causes of death in the U.S., only one is increasing: COPD, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes it harder to breathe over time and can cause chronic coughing, wheezing or a constant tightness in your chest. When you have COPD, every breath can be difficult. Some patients say that it feels like breathing through a cocktail straw. Trouble breathing can impact your ability to do daily activities like gardening, traveling and, eventually, even walking. While there is no cure for COPD, there are a number of treatment options and lifestyle adjustments that can help you better manage your COPD.

“Every patient with COPD will experience the disease differently, and many may need to change their treatment plan as the disease progresses,” said James F. Donohue, M.D., professor of medicine and the former chief of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “By working together, patients, their loved ones, and healthcare providers can help patients properly manage their COPD through medications and lifestyle adjustments like making changes to diet or starting a breathing exercise program.”

When your COPD progresses from mild to moderate, your healthcare provider may say that the amount of air you can blow out (called the forced expiratory volume in the first second or FEV) has decreased to less than 80 percent of normal (based on your age and gender). As your COPD progresses further, you may also experience frequent flare-ups (also called exacerbations) which may lead to hospitalizations; you should talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options. Treatment guidelines recommend long-acting, maintenance treatments for use in patients with both moderate and severe COPD in addition to a rescue inhaler to control acute symptoms.

Medications delivered via a nebulizer are one way that you can receive treatment for COPD. With a nebulizer, medication is delivered as a fine mist through a mouthpiece or a face mask. You don’t have to time your breathing; instead you breathe normally for about 5-10 minutes. Nebulizers can be used to take both long-acting and short-acting medications. People may believe that nebulizers are bulky and cumbersome, however over the last ten years they have become increasingly compact and portable. Many patients are not aware of the nebulized treatment options which offer effective medication delivery. Most nebulized maintenance treatments need to be taken twice a day, in the morning and the evening, giving you medication to help control your COPD symptoms through the day and night.

Following a set routine with your COPD treatment regimen can help you take your medication at the correct time and may help you breathe better and experience fewer flare-ups. Your healthcare provider can determine which medications will help you manage your symptoms and can also help you find a treatment plan that is easy for you to follow. If you are a patient with moderate-to-severe COPD, you may wish to speak with your healthcare provider about adding a nebulized long-acting maintenance treatment as part of a treatment plan that is best for you. For more information about a nebulized long-acting COPD treatment visit MyCOPD.com.


Editor’s note:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading Causes of Death. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What Is COPD? Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. How Is COPD Treated? Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment.html. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). At-A-Glance Outpatient Management Reference for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Available at http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD_AtAGlance_2013_Feb20.pdf. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

MedlinePlus. How to Use a Nebulizer. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000006.htm. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

American Lung Association. COPD Medications. Available at http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/copd-medications.html. Accessed: April 22, 2013.

Dr. Donohue is a consultant for Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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