You might be undergoing either medical or rehabilitative treatment for your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Either way, you should follow up with your doctor regularly to learn if your COPD treatment is progressing as expected. Your doctor can help you determine if you need to try a different course of treatment.
There are a variety of tests you can have to allow your doctor to monitor the progress of your disease, such as lung function tests or chest X-rays. They should talk to you about the results of your tests and give you a chance to ask questions. It’s important to share information about your physical and emotional symptoms with your doctor. You can also ask them about your outlook and alternative treatment options.
For mild cases of COPD, lifestyle changes may be enough to alleviate your symptoms. These changes may include:
- stopping smoking
- avoiding substances that irritate your lungs
- following an exercise program
- improving your diet
If you’ve chosen this course of treatment, it’s important to regularly check in with your doctor to make sure your disease hasn’t progressed. COPD can sometimes gradually worsen, and it’s important to take additional steps in your treatment if that’s the case.
Just as your COPD may change over time, your treatment needs to change as well. Each person with COPD is different, so no two treatment plans are identical. Your doctor may need to alter your treatment plan to find what works for you. By working together, you can develop a plan that makes you comfortable and relieves your symptoms.
In additional to lifestyle changes, your treatment plan might include:
- oxygen therapy
- pulmonary rehabilitation
Generally speaking, you should check any new treatment program at the three-month mark for effectiveness. If you haven't experienced improvement within the first three months, your doctor should consider alternative treatment plans. Your doctor may use the following methods to assess the progress of your treatment:
- Your doctor will probably use breathing tests to determine if your COPD is progressing. These tests determine how well your lungs take in and release air, as well as how that air is moved into your bloodstream. They’ll be conducted via spirometry, which involves the use of a machine that tests your lungs’ capacity.
- Your doctor may also ask you to you exercise while you’re hooked up to a mouthpiece that tests your breathing. By checking your breathing while you exercise, they can assess your lung capacity.
- Another test that can be conducted measures oxygen levels in your blood. Your doctor can use this test, called an oximetry test, to measure the oxygen in your red blood cells by hooking you up to an oximeter.
- Your doctor may also administer a chest X-ray to determine if you have pneumonia or any tumors. Your doctor probably won’t do this unless they have a reason to suspect problems. They can also use a CT scan to provide a more detailed view of your lungs. However, a CT scan is more expensive than a standard chest X-ray and exposes you to more radiation.
After conducting tests, your doctor will probably talk to you about your results. This is a good time to ask questions you have, including questions about treatment options that you haven’t tried yet. It’s important to be open with your doctor. You’re ultimately in charge of your own health.
You might want to ask your doctor about how your disease will likely progress. While your doctor can’t predict everything that your future will hold, they should be able to give you some information about COPD to help you develop realistic expectations and goals.
This is also the time to discuss your symptoms. While your test results can help your doctor understand your physical symptoms, it’s important to share information about any problems or discomfort you’re experiencing while completing everyday tasks.
Emotional challenges and mental health symptoms are also important to share. Some people with COPD experience depression. Your doctor can help diagnose and treat your symptoms or direct you to someone who can.
Make sure you ask your doctor all of your questions about your medication. They can help you understand the correct dosing, as well as any interactions or side effects you may be concerned about.
If you’re still smoking, even occasionally, be honest with your doctor about it. Chances are they’d rather help you find a way to quit than judge or reprimand you. Several products that are both safe and inexpensive can help you quit smoking and are available for people with COPD. Smoking in secret will prevent your doctor from being able to treat your condition effectively and shorten your life.
If you’re undergoing treatment for COPD and you don’t experience instant relief, be patient. Many treatments require a certain amount of time to take effect. Be honest and open with your doctor so that they can help you get the care you need to breathe easier.