While there are no known cures for chronic bronchitis or emphysema, the two major types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, there are various COPD treatment options available that can ease discomfort and improve daily life.
The first rule of medicine is ‘do no harm’ whereas the first rule COPD treatment for each patient is ‘do no MORE harm to oneself’. Consequently, if you smoke, stopping is a must. Even if smoking did not cause the disease, it will definitely contribute to any deterioration that takes place in this progressive condition. Smoking is one of the most common risk factors of COPD and an irritant of airways and alveoli. Damage to those two major components of the lungs is present in the condition.
Fortunately, for those without the willpower, there are several aids to stop smoking. Everything from Nicorette gum to nicotine patches are available as substitutes. Certain antidepressants, such as Bupropion, have been found to decrease cravings while Varenicline can help reduce the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.
COPD Treatment Medications
Although no drug restores bronchioles or alveoli health, nor slow their deterioration, several can improve breathing and ease symptoms.
One of the oldest treatments for chronic bronchitis and emphysema are corticosteroids. Prednisone and prednisolone are still used in cases that are more serious and help about twenty to thirty percent of patients.
However, it has been known for sometime that long-term use of corticosteroids can have serious side effects such as osteoporosis, increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and excess weight gain. Administration by inhaler rather than pill carries fewer side effects. Because of these drawbacks, corticosteroids are sometimes recommended only for more advanced cases where other options have not shown adequate results.
New COPD Treatment Bronchodilators
Similar to drugs used to treat asthma, bronchodilators are one of the most common and helpful methods of COPD treatment available today. They relax the muscles surrounding the airways and can be taken as a pill or via an inhaler. Some high-strength forms are even injected intravenously.
Inhalers tend to be the preferred choice, since they produce the least side effects. One form in particular, called metered dose inhalers or MDIs, use a pressurized container to optimize delivery of the drug to air passages. Some skill is required to use them properly, though, in order to prevent excess medication from being deposited on the tongue and throat.
Another class of asthma medications used in COPD treatment are beta-agonists. They bind to targeted molecules of the airway muscles and help relax them to relieve constricted passages, making breathing easier. The effect is to relieve shortness of breath, a condition called dyspnea.
In some types, the effect begins within a few minutes and can easily last a few hours. There are types, such as Serevent and Foradil, that have a slower onset but last up to twelve hours. However, the effectiveness of beta-agonists tends to reduce over time.
Acetylcholine is a chemical released by nerve cells that affects nearby muscles. Its effect is to contract them, leading to reduced airflow. So-called anti-cholinergic drugs such as Atrovent can counteract that. It is usually administered by an MDI device.
It helps relieve dyspnea, which makes it possible to engage in moderate exercise with less risk. Such exercises help maintain muscles, making them use oxygen more efficiently. That in turn eases the negative effects of COPD.