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Behandlung und Management von leichter COPD

von NFI Redaktion

Early symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can easily go unnoticed since you may not experience any symptoms initially. However, over time, you may start to cough heavily or feel short of breath when being active. Mild COPD may not seem like a big deal, but it’s crucial to take action early on.

„When we consider general management goals, we aim to minimize symptoms and prevent disease progression,“ says Dr. Carolyn Rochester, Medical Director of the Yale COPD Program. „This is especially important for individuals with mild COPD.“

While there is no cure, lifestyle changes and treatments can help manage your COPD. Here’s what you need to know:

Yes, experts agree that quitting smoking is the best way to prevent exacerbations of COPD. If you have no symptoms, this may be the only treatment you need.

„Smoking cessation is essential and should be addressed at every doctor’s visit for individuals who continue to smoke,“ says Rochester.

Quitting smoking not only protects your lungs but also helps your medications work more effectively.

„When people actively smoke or are exposed to smoke, they inhale irritants that may counteract the effects of their inhaled pharmacotherapies,“ Rochester explains.

Here are some tips on types of active or passive smoking to avoid:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
  • Marijuana

Ongoing research is being conducted on the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes. However, researchers agree that they are not beneficial for your lungs. Even though e-cigarettes may be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, they can still worsen your COPD symptoms.

Rochester recommends a symptom-based approach for mild COPD, which often includes a bronchodilator. These are medications, typically inhalers, that relax the muscles around your airways.

You may need the following:

Short-acting bronchodilator. Also known as a „rescue inhaler,“ this inhaler can quickly relieve shortness of breath. Its effects last for 4 to 6 hours. You can use it during a flare-up or take a few puffs before certain activities that you know trigger symptoms. For example, you may only need to use your inhaler before climbing the three flights of stairs to your apartment each day, according to Rochester.

Long-acting bronchodilators. This is the preferred option if you frequently rely on the rescue inhaler. You use it daily to prevent flare-ups. They are taken on a schedule, „similar to how you would take a blood pressure medication,“ says Dr. Benjamin Seides, Medical Director of interventional pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. „You don’t wait until symptoms appear.“

A bronchodilator can effectively control mild COPD. It may be the only medication you need to stay active and breathe easier. Inform your doctor if your symptoms do not improve. They can help you find a different treatment that works better for you.

Exercising can be challenging if you have COPD. However, Rochester states that inactivity over time is linked to a decline in lung function, more hospitalizations, and „exacerbations.“ The less physical activity you engage in, the weaker your muscles become. When this happens, „people experience shortness of breath with less and less activity,“ she says.

Avoid everything that irritates your airways. You likely already know to avoid cats or dogs if you have allergies. But here are some other triggers, according to Rochester, that can exacerbate your symptoms:

  • Temperature and humidity changes
  • Household hazards like cleaning agents
  • Chemical fumes
  • Days with poor air quality
  • Acid reflux, with or without heartburn

Wear a mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE) if you cannot avoid environmental irritants, says Seides.

If something triggers a flare-up, take control of it early. Exacerbations not only worsen your symptoms but also lead to a decline in lung function, lower quality of life, more hospitalizations, and even death, according to Rochester.

Speak up if your symptoms worsen. Your doctor can investigate further. Certain health conditions can mimic COPD, says Rochester. Some examples include:

  • Heart failure
  • Vocal cord spasms
  • Tracheobronchomalacia, a rare tracheal condition
  • Asthma
  • Obesity-related airway disease
  • Bronchiectasis, leading to airway dilation and mucus production

Inform your doctor if you catch a cold or suspect a respiratory infection. These illnesses can significantly worsen your COPD symptoms. You may need additional medication to recover.

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