Even though there is no cure for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), there are many things that you can do to help ease your symptoms and even slow progression of the disease for a better quality of life. Managing severe COPD starts with understanding the disease as well as your treatment plan. To help you do this, the following questions and discussion points can help you get the information you need when speaking with your doctor.
What can I do to keep my COPD from getting worse?
Ask your doctor about what else you can do along with taking your medication that can help you keep your COPD from getting worse. Anything that irritates the lungs can worsen your COPD. Talking to your doctor about various irritants and asking for help on avoiding them can greatly improve your symptoms and even limit the frequency of exacerbations you experience. Ask your doctor about help with quitting smoking if you are a smoker or if someone in your home smokes, as smoking is the leading cause of COPD and responsible for nine out of 10 COPD-related deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Should I get vaccinated against the flu or pneumonia?
Getting the flu or pneumonia with COPD can be life-threating and cause further damage to the lungs. Those with COPD are at a higher risk of influenza and pneumonia, so finding out if you are able to get vaccinated against these respiratory infections is important. A paper published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in 2007 states that evidence suggests that 40 to 60 percent of COPD exacerbations are associated with respiratory infections. It also goes on to state that there is evidence of the impact of influenza in COPD based on studies of influenza in those with a nonspecific diagnosis of COPD.
What lifestyle changes can I make to better manage my COPD?
As of 2010, Medicare covers the costs of pulmonary rehabilitation for those who have been diagnosed with COPD. Pulmonary rehabilitation offers a well-rounded approach to the treatment and management of COPD through the education of patients on the disease, exercise, and nutrition which can all help alleviate symptoms and slow progression. These programs also offer peer and professional support, and a team of professionals that may include doctors and nurses, physical and respiratory therapists, dietitians, and exercise specialists. Psychological counselling is also often part of pulmonary rehabilitation.
When should I call a doctor or seek emergency help?
Between potential side effects from medications and exacerbations commonly associated with severe COPD, it can be difficult to know what requires immediate attention by a medical professional and what can be managed at home. Speak to your doctor about the side effects that you can expect from your treatment as well as any emergency symptoms to look out for that may indicate an exacerbation or other COPD-related emergency. Also remember to ask who you should call should these symptoms arise. This is especially important if your COPD is being monitored by a doctor as well as a pulmonologist.
What are my other treatment options?
If you have any concerns about the treatment plan that you are on then you need to speak up and talk to your doctor about it. Explain your concerns and ask what changes can be made to your treatment plan to make you more comfortable. Are you not getting enough symptom relief from your treatment? Do you wonder if you are a candidate for surgery? Are you perhaps looking for more affordable medication? These are all things that you need to discuss with your doctor. Together you can find solutions to your concerns and help you find a treatment plan that offers you the best quality of life for your own personalized situation and needs.
Getting Your Questions Answered
The time spent speaking to your doctor during appointments may be limited, so in order to make the most of your visits it’s important to go into the appointment armed with your questions. Write down questions and concerns as they arise so that you don’t forget them before your appointment. If needed, write down the answers that your doctor provides to better help you remember since some appointments can be overwhelming, especially if you’re recently diagnosed. You have the right to understand your disease and treatment as well as possible. Knowledge is power and in regard to COPD, the right knowledge could greatly improve the way you feel and how well your disease is managed.