Whether you’re undergoing medical or rehabilitative treatment for your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you’ll likely want to occasionally check-in with your physician to see if you’re progressing as expected. Your doctor will likely be able to work with you to determine if you need to try a different course of treatment, but here are a few things to look for in your COPD treatment program.
For mild cases of COPD, simply stopping smoking and improving diet and exercise may be enough to alleviate symptoms. 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 is the case.
Just as your COPD may change over time, your treatment needs to change, as well. Each COPD patient is different, so no two treatments should be identical. Your physician will need to alter your treatment to find what works for you, finding a plan that makes you comfortable while relieving your symptoms.
Assessing the Results
Generally speaking, any new treatment program should be checked at the three-month mark to determine effectiveness. If improvement hasn’t been seen within the first three months, your physician should consider alternative treatment plans.
Breathing tests will generally be administered 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. These types of tests will be conducted via spirometry, or a machine that tests your lungs’ capacity.
Your doctor may administer a chest x-ray to determine if you have pneumonia or any tumors. This generally isn’t given unless your doctor has a reason to do so. A computed tomography (CT) scan can be done to give a more detailed view of the lungs, but this test is more expensive than a standard chest x-ray and exposes the patient to more radiation than an x-ray.
Your doctor may have you exercise while hooked up to a mouthpiece that tests your breathing. By checking your breathing under duress, your physician is able to determine lung capacity.
Another test can be conducted that measures oxygen levels in your blood. This test, called an oximetry test, measures the oxygen in your red blood cells by hooking you up to an oximetry machine.
Interpreting Your Results
After your test, your physician will likely take time to consult you on your results. This is the time to voice any questions you have, as well as ask about treatment options that have not yet been attempted. It’s important to be honest and open with your physician, since you are ultimately in charge of your own health.
You might want to ask your doctor what you should expect of your disease’s progression. While your doctor may not be able to give you a definitive answer on everything you can expect, he or she should be able to give you some information about COPD that will put your worries at ease.
During this time, it is important to get any emotional issues out in the open with your doctor. Some COPD patients suffer from depression, and your doctor may be able to help or direct you to someone who can.
This is also the time to discuss your symptoms. While tests can help give your doctor an idea of your physical symptoms, giving details about problems you’re having completing everyday tasks can help your physician make an accurate diagnosis.
Make sure to ask your doctor all of your questions about your medication. This is the time to make sure you understand your dosing, as well as any interactions you may be concerned about.
If you are still smoking, even occasionally, be honest with your doctor about it. He or she may not approve, but chances are rather than judging or reprimanding you, your physician will try to find a way to assist you in quitting. Several smoking cessation aids are available to COPD sufferers that are both safe and inexpensive. Smoking in secret will not only shorten your life, it will inhibit your doctor’s ability to treat you.
If you’re undergoing treatment for COPD and not seeing instant relief, be patient. Many treatments take a while to take effect. Being as open and honest with your physician as possible ensures you get the best care so you can breathe better.