There is no specific drug that can cure COPD completely. However, measures can be taken to reduce the disease’s symptoms. The first and foremost lifestyle change for many patients is cessation of smoking. The lesser the exposure to cigarette smoke, the lesser the chance for initiation of inflammation and further consequences of the disease. Patient education, awareness, mental support, and strong will power all contribute to this. It is the most important therapeutic intervention for COPD.
Management of inflammation is another key aspect in order to treat COPD. The use of corticosteroids is widely practiced. Systemic corticosteroids are used to treat acute exacerbations, but are most effective in treating bronchial-asthma exacerbations. Oral steroids for treatment of patients with chronic COPD is discouraged due to manifestations of harmful side-effects, such as hypertension, glucose intolerance, osteoporosis, fractures, and cataracts. Inhaled steroids, though they provide a more effective and direct way to prevent exacerbations, are recommended in combination therapy with a bronchodilator, as they are minimally absorbed (in mono therapy). Pneumonia and thrush are the only side-effects reported thus far with this kind of treatment regime.
Bacterial infection is a common consequence of COPD and leads to mostly acute exacerbations. The use of empiric antibiotic therapy has been prescribed in this case, but the use of prophylactic antibiotics is not recommended because of growing antibiotic resistance.
Oxygen therapy is also necessary for patients with hypoxia. Supplemental oxygen therapy during exercise, helps in reducing fatigue and overcome dyspnea, reduce pulmonary arterial pressure and improve exercise tolerance in patients.
Vaccination (pneumococcal and influenza) is prescribed in people with FEV of less than 40% of predicted value, and over 65 years of age, to prevent chances of infection.
Mucolytic agents which improve the mucoviscous nature of sputum is prescribe din some cases to decrease cough and provide relief from chest discomfort. N -acetylcysteine in combination with the bronchodilator albuterol, is a common prescription for this purpose.
Hence, it is seen that, a combination of routine checkups, early diagnosis and proper management are essential in reducing the severity of COPD and increase the healthy lifespan of patients.