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How Can COPD Be Prevented From Progressing?



If you smoke, the most important thing you can do to stop more damage to your lungs is to quit smoking. For information on how to quit smoking, visit the Web site of the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General. Many hospitals have smoking cessation programs or can refer you to one.

It is also important to stay away from people who are smoking and places where you know there will be smokers.

Staying away from other lung irritants such as pollution, dust, and certain cooking or heating fumes is also important. For example, you should stay in your house when the outside air quality is poor.

Managing Complications and Preventing Sudden Onset of Problems

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often have symptoms that suddenly get worse. When this happens, you have a much harder time catching your breath. You may also have chest tightness, more coughing, change in your sputum, and a fever. It is important to call your doctor if you have any of these signs or symptoms.

Your doctor will look at things that might be causing these signs and symptoms to suddenly worsen. Sometimes the signs and symptoms are caused by a lung infection. Your doctor may want you to take an antibiotic medicine that helps fight off the infection.

Your doctor may also recommend additional medicines to help with your breathing. These medicines include bronchodilators and glucocorticosteroids.

Your doctor may recommend that you spend time in the hospital if:


Living With COPD

Although there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your symptoms can be managed, and damage to your lungs can be slowed. If you smoke, to quickly stop-smoking is the most important thing you can do to help your lungs. Here is some online-information on ways to help you quit-smoking. You also need to try to stay away from people who are smoking or public places where smoking is allowed:

It is important to keep the air in your home clean. Here are some things that may help your breathing in your home:



See your doctor at least 2-times a year, even if you are feeling good. Make sure you bring a list of medicines you are taking to your doctor visit.

Ask your doctor or nurse about getting a flu shot and pneumonia vaccination.

Keep your body strong by learning breathing exercises and walking and exercising regularly.

Eat healthy foods. Ask your family to help you buy and fix healthy foods. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat protein food like meat, fish, eggs, milk, and soy.

If your doctor has told you that you have severe COPD, there are some things that you can do to get the most out of each breath. Make your life as easy as possible at home by:

  1. Asking your friends and family for help
  2. Doing things slowly
  3. Doing things sitting down
  4. Putting things you need in one place that is easy to reach
  5. Finding very simple ways to cook, clean, and do other chores. Some people use a small table or cart with wheels to move things around. Using a pole or tongs with long handles can help you reach things
  6. Keeping your clothes loose
  7. Wearing clothes and shoes that are easy to put on and take off
  8. Asking for help moving your things around in your house so that you will not need to climb stairs as often
  9. Picking a place to sit which location you can enjoy and visit with others

If you are finding that it is becoming more difficult to catch your breath, your coughing has gotten worse, you are coughing up more mucus, or you have signs of infection (such as a fever and feeling poorly), you need to call your doctor right away. Your doctor may do a spirometry test, blood work, and a chest x ray. Your doctor may also:

It is helpful to have certain information on hand in case you need to go to the hospital or doctor right away. You should plan now to make sure you have:


When To Get Emergency Help?

You should get emergency help if:


Key Points

Smoking is the most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a disease that slowly worsens over time, especially if you continue to smoke.

Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants, like pollution, dust, or chemicals, over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to COPD. Secondhand smoke and genetic disorders can also play a role in chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease.

There is no cure for "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and is a major cause of illness, and the 4th most common cause of death.

In COPD, much of the lung's elastic quality of the airways and lung air-sacs are gone. The airways collapse and obstruct the normal airflow. Airways may also become inflamed and thickened.

The signs and symptoms of COPD are different for each person. Common signs are cough, sputum production, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness.

COPD usually occurs in people who are over 40-years old. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is not contagious.

If you have COPD, you are more likely to have lung infections, which can be fatal.

Your doctor can use a medical history, physical exam, and breathing tests, such as spirometry, to diagnose—or rule out—COPD even before you have significant symptoms.

If the lungs are severely damaged, the heart may be affected. A person with COPD dies when the lungs and heart are unable to function and get oxygen to the body's organs and tissues, or when a complication such as a severe infection occurs.

Treatment for COPD may help prevent complications, prolong life, and improve a person's quality of life. Quitting smoking, staying away from people who are smoking, and avoiding exposure to other lung irritants are the most important ways to reduce your risk of developing COPD or to slow the progress of the lung disease.



Treatment may include medicines such as bronchodilators, steroids, flu shots, and pneumococcal vaccine to avoid or reduce further complications.

As the symptoms of chronicobstructivepulmonarydisease worsen over time, a person may have more difficulty walking and exercising. You should talk to your doctor about exercising and if you could benefit from a pulmonary rehab program — a coordinated program of exercise, physical therapy, disease management training, advice on diet, plus diet and health counseling.

Oxygen treatment and surgery to remove part of a lung or even to transplant a lung may be recommended for persons with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you have a sudden worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary-disease symptoms and lung disease indications, it's important to contact your doctor and seek emergency treatment.

Be prepared and have information on hand that you or others would need in a medical emergency, such as information on medicines you are taking, directions to the hospital or your doctor’s office, and people to contact if you are unable to speak or call them.