Quitting smoking (or never picking up the habit in the first place) is the best way to prevent getting COPD.
There is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, experts consider it one of the most preventable respiratory issues.
The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. One of the best ways to prevent getting COPD is to never start smoking, or to quit smoking if you already do.
If you have trouble quitting smoking, there are numerous options to help you, including gums, patches, and prescription medications.
Additionally, support groups and classes to help you quit smoking can often be found through hospitals, workplaces, and community associations.
Enlisting the support of family and friends may also help you in your smoking cessation efforts.
Heavy and long-term exposure to various lung irritants, including air pollution, dust and chemical fumes in the workplace, and secondhand smoke, can also cause COPD.
Here are some tips to reduce your exposure to COPD-causing irritants:
- If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, make sure it’s well ventilated
- Stay indoors if there’s noticeable air pollution outside, such as smog or a nearby wildfire
- Make your home an environment free from second-hand smoke
- If you work in an environment where you are exposed to chemical fumes and dust, speak with your supervisor about respiratory protective equipment and other ways to protect yourself
COPD Prognosis: The GOLD System
Determining the long-term health and life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on two complicated tests.
During diagnosis, the severity of COPD is typically based on the GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) system.
The GOLD system takes into account multiple factors, including your FEV1 score (the amount of air you can forcibly expel from your lungs in one second), frequency of exacerbations (periods of worsened symptoms), hospitalizations, and functional dyspnea (degree of breathlessness associated with varying physical activity).
The GOLD system is designed to help gauge the severity of a person’s COPD and predict the risk of the condition getting worse, helping physicians determine the best treatment plan. It doesn’t predict how long a person has to live.
Based on the GOLD system, COPD prognosis is as follows:
- People in Patient Group A have fewer COPD symptoms and have a low risk of exacerbations and their condition getting much worse
- People in Group B have more COPD symptoms but still have a low risk
- People in Group C have few COPD symptoms and have a high risk
- People in Group D have more COPD symptoms and high risk
COPD Prognosis: The BODE Index
In 2004, researchers came up with another COPD prognosis tool called the BODE (Body mass index, Obstruction, Dyspnea, and Exercise) Index, which they outlined in a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The BODE index helps health care professions predict COPD mortality, or how long people have to live after being diagnosed with the disease.
The index takes into account four factors to determine a person’s risk of death within a 52-month period:
- Body-mass index
- Degree of airflow obstruction, based on FEV1 scores
- Functional dyspnea
- Exercise capacity, based on a test that measures how far people can walk in six minutes
The BODE Index is also a good predictor of the number and severity of COPD exacerbations, according to a 2009 in the journal Respiratory Medicine.
The goal of COPD treatment is to relieve symptoms, slow the decline of lung function, decrease exacerbations, and improve overall quality of life.
To slow the progression of the disease, it’s important tostop smoking and avoid exposure to lung irritants.
Pulmonary rehabilitation can improve your well-being and may include:
- A special exercise or activity plan to strengthen the muscles used for breathing
- Breathing strategies
- Psychological counseling
- COPD education
Various medicines may also be necessary, including:
- Bronchodilators (inhalers) to open the airways
- Steroids to reduce airway inflammation
- Antibiotics to treat respiratory infections
- Vaccines for the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia
- Infusions of the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin (in rare cases, a deficiency of this protein causesemphysema)
If you have severe COPD and low levels of oxygen in your blood, you may require oxygen therapy, or oxygen from a tank that’s provided through nasal prongs or a mask.
This can help protect your organs from damage, improve your sleep, and help you be more active with fewer symptoms.
Surgery for COPD
In severe cases, a lung transplant or surgery may be recommended to help improve lung function.
There are three basic types of surgical options for COPD treatment:
Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS): Many people with COPD cannot fully empty their lungs, leaving an area in the lungs that’s sometimes referred to as “dead space.”
It’s the increased effort required to empty the lungs that creates feelings of shortness of breath and chest tightness.
LVRS is seen as a possible solution to the problem of having more lung space than you are able to use.
In this surgery, a surgeon will take out some of the damaged tissue in your lungs, thereby reducing the amount of “dead space” available.
Bullectomy: People with a specific type of emphysema (bullous emphysema) develop “air bubbles” called bullae due to the destruction of the walls between the air sacs in their lungs.
In a bullectomy, the surgeon removes these bubbles. Surgery is typically done for people struggling with symptoms, or who have large areas of involvement in the lungs.
Lung transplant: For younger patients (under age 60) with severe COPD, getting a new lung or set of lungs is a good option.
Nearly 60 percent of all single-lung transplants are performed in people with idiopathic emphysema (where the cause is not known) or those with the inherited form of emphysema, which strikes at earlier ages than most forms of COPD. Source