If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you likely already know the difficulties that come with being unable to properly process oxygen through your lungs. But you may have several questions about the progression of the disease, as well as your treatment options. Here are a few questions you should ask your doctor before beginning a treatment program for COPD.
1. What Can I Expect If I Stop Smoking?
Smoking is the top cause of COPD. When you stop smoking, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood is cut in half within about 12 hours. If you’ve ever had surgery, you were probably told to stop smoking at least eight hours before. That’s because it reduces the carbon monoxide in your blood to a safe level for surgery.
A few weeks after you stop smoking, your lungs will begin to repair themselves. Within three months, you’ll likely feel a marked improvement in your ability to breathe.
In just one year, the cilia in your lungs (the tiny, hair-like organelles that push mucus out) will begin to move mucus more smoothly again. For women, this progress is even faster. Repaired cilia will reduce symptoms like chronic coughing and shortness of breath.
By your tenth smoke-free year, your lung cancer risk will be cut in half. However, the risk is increased by the number of years you smoke.
There’s no cure for COPD once you have it, but lung repair can help slow the progression of the disease. Continuing to smoke will only exacerbate the disease, potentially leading to complications such as pneumonia.
2. What Side Effects Can I Expect from My Medication?
You’ve probably seen the five-minute disclaimers at the end of pharmaceutical commercials. One of the biggest concerns you could have about any treatment is that it might cause damage to other, healthy parts of your body. Check with your doctor before beginning any treatment program to make sure you know all the dangers associated with it.
3. Are There Any Changes I Can Make to Help My Condition?
Your overall health will likely have a very positive impact on your reaction to COPD symptoms. Changing your diet and exercise can help slow the disease and help you breath better and feel less discomfort.
Your doctor can also help you find exercise programs designed specifically for people who have COPD.
4. Besides Smoking, What Other Factors Can Aggravate My COPD?
If you’re concerned about allergens like pets, dust, and other environmental factors or you have overlapping asthma, your doctor may recommend wearing a mask to cut down on the pollutants you inhale.
Explain the specifics of your lifestyle to your doctor so they can recommend changes to your environment that will help you breathe better.
Your doctor will likely also recommend that you stay away from people who have infections and contagious illnesses. If you have COPD, even a minor illness can weaken your immune system, putting you at greater risk for problems.
Staying healthy in general can help ensure longevity. A healthy diet that includes vitamins to strengthen the immune system can help fight off viruses that come your way.
5. Do I Need Any Shots or Vaccinations?
Everyone with COPD should get the pneumonia vaccine to decrease the risk of getting the infection. Pneumonia can deteriorate lung health and lead to a weakened system and eventual overall health decline. A pneumonia vaccine protects against a couple dozen strains.
The flu shot is extra important for people with COPD. Like pneumonia, the flu can weaken your lungs and immune system, leading to problems that healthy people wouldn’t face.
If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, you likely have many questions. Prepare for your next appointment by writing down questions as they come to mind. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that will make your symptoms more manageable.