Treatment for COPD
Treatment for COPD can ease symptoms, prevent complications, and generally slow disease progression. Your healthcare team may include a lung specialist (pulmonologist) and physical and respiratory therapists.
Below are the most common Western treatments for COPD
Oxygen therapy – a vital component of any treatment for COPD
If your blood oxygen level is too low, you can receive supplemental oxygen through a mask or nasal cannula to help you breathe better. A portable unit can make it easier to get around.
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Medications for COPD – most popular in Western medicine treatment for COPD
Pharmaceutical medications are another type of treatment for COPD that can reduce symptoms and flare-ups. It may take some trial and error to find the medication and dosage that works best for you, but these are some of your options:
Medicines are called bronchodilators to help loosen tight muscles in your airways. They’re typically taken through an inhaler or nebulizer. Short-acting bronchodilators last from 4 to 6 hours. You only use them when you need them. For ongoing symptoms, there are long-acting versions you can use every day. They last about 12 hours.
Long-acting bronchodilators are commonly combined with inhaled glucocorticosteroids. A glucocorticosteroid can reduce inflammation in the airways and lower mucus production. The long-acting bronchodilator can relax the airway muscle to help the airways stay wider. Corticosteroids are also available in pill form.
Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors are a medication that can be taken in pill form to help reduce inflammation and relax the airways. It’s generally prescribed for severe COPD with chronic bronchitis.
This medication eases chest tightness and shortness of breath. It may also help prevent flare-ups. It’s available in pill form. Theophylline is an older medication that relaxes the muscles of the airways and may cause side effects. It’s generally not a first-line treatment for COPD.
Surgery – treatment for COPD used in cases when other conservative approaches failed.
Surgery is reserved for severe COPD or when other treatments have failed, which is more likely when you have a form of severe emphysema.
One type of surgery is called bullectomy. During this procedure, surgeons remove large, abnormal air spaces (bullae) from the lungs.
Another is lung volume reduction surgery, which removes damaged upper lung tissue. Lung volume reduction surgery can improve breathing, but few patients undergo this major, somewhat risky procedure.
Lung transplantation is an option in some cases. Lung transplantation can effectively cure COPD but has its many risks.
There is a less invasive method of improving the efficiency of airflow in people with severe emphysema called endobronchial valves (EBV), which are one-way valves that divert inspired air to healthy lungs and away from non-functioning, damaged lungs.
What is COPD?
COPD is an acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. As the name implies, it is a disorder of the respiratory system that impairs breathing due to blockage of the respiratory system over a long time. Asthma is another chronic respiratory condition that causes a blockage of the airways. However, one significant difference between asthma and COPD is that while the blockage caused by asthma is entirely reversible (not curable) by medications, the blockage caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder is not entirely reversible. Another difference is that asthma is a type of allergic reaction and is related to allergies. Allergenic substances like dust and pollen can trigger it.
Conversely, COPD is triggered by continuous inhaling of irritants like smoke, tar, and soot. Asthma is not preventable; it is in the genes and only manageable. COPD is preventable. COPD is more common than you may think – it is so common that it was once considered the fourth leading cause of death in the United States of America. COPD is an umbrella term for two chronic diseases – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis happens when too much secretion of mucus in the airways over a long period. It could last for more than three months each year for at least two years. Emphysema is damage to some lung structures due to blocked airways. This damage makes the blocked airways worse. In a person suffering from COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis features are usually seen. One major factor that can contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder – is cigarette smoking (it is not hard to know where the label “smokers are liable to die young” came from). Other factors include inhaling toxic dust and chemicals and air pollution.
COPD is a group of diseases that cause breathing problems and blockages in airflow. They gradually get worse over time.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is estimated to affect 32 million persons in the United States and is the third leading cause of death. Patients typically have chronic bronchitis and emphysema symptoms, but the classic triad also includes asthma.
COPD is more common in:
- Females, although it is essential to note that female smokers are about 50% more likely to develop COPD than men. Also, females with severe COPD have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from respiratory failure.
- People with a history of asthma
- Individuals aged 65 years and older
- Current or former smokers
A person’s windpipe connects to the lungs, dividing into smaller branches. These branches end in small air sacs called alveoli, with tiny blood vessels known as capillaries running along their walls. Here, oxygen passes from the sacs into the capillaries, and the waste product carbon dioxide passes into the sacs. Breathing involves this exchange of gases.
In someone with healthy lungs, the airways and air sacs are stretchy. This elasticity permits the sacs to inflate when a person breathes in and deflate when they breathe out.
People with COPD have less air going in and out of their airways because of one or more of the following:
- The airways and sacs become too compliant, especially in emphysema, and lose their elastic recoil, leading to alveolar destruction.
- The airway walls become thick and inflamed, like chronic bronchitis.
- The airways produce more mucus, which clogs airflow, as seen in people with asthma. Untreated, COPD can lead to faster disease progression, heart problems, and worsening respiratory infections.
What are the causes of COPD?
Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old and have at least some smoking history. The longer and more tobacco products you smoke, the greater your risk of COPD.
In addition to cigarette smoke, cigar smoke, pipe smoke, and secondhand smoke are among the many causes of COPD. Your risk of COPD is even greater if you have asthma and smoke.
Other causes of COPD are:
- You can also develop COPD if exposed to chemicals and fumes in the workplace. Long-term exposure to air pollution and inhaling dust can also cause COPD.
- In developing countries, along with tobacco smoke, homes are often poorly ventilated, forcing families to breathe fumes from burning fuel used for cooking and heating.
- There may be a genetic predisposition to developing COPD. Up to an estimated 5 percent of people with COPD have a deficiency in a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin. This deficiency causes the lungs to deteriorate and also can affect the liver. There may be other associated genetic factors at play as well.
Types of COPD
The two main types of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but many individuals with COPD can have both.
In emphysema, the alveoli, which are the walls of the air sacs, and the small airways suffer damage. As a result of this damage, the sacs lose their shape and ability to recoil during the expiratory phase of the breathing cycle, resulting in trapped air in the lungs. This trapped air distends the alveoli, causing a repeating cycle of airway obstruction.
These changes eventually result in the lungs becoming hyperinflated, which reduces the exchange of gases. This makes it difficult for people to breathe and oxygenate their blood effectively while impairing the ability to breathe out carbon dioxide from the blood.
In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways stays inflamed. This leads to swelling and the formation of large amounts of mucus. These effects make it hard to breathe.
Symptoms of COPD
Symptoms of COPD may be mild initially, beginning with intermittent coughing and shortness of breath. As it progresses, symptoms can become more constant and increasingly difficult to breathe.
You may experience wheezing and tightness in the chest or have excess sputum production. Some people with COPD have acute exacerbations and flare-ups of severe symptoms.
Early symptoms of COPD
At first, symptoms of COPD can be pretty mild. You might mistake them for a cold.
Early symptoms include:
- Occasional shortness of breath, especially after exercise
- Mild but recurrent cough
- Needing to clear your throat often, especially first thing in the morning
- You might start making subtle changes, such as avoiding stairs and skipping physical activities.
Worsening symptoms of COPD
Symptoms can get progressively worse and harder to ignore. As the lungs become more damaged, you may experience:
- Shortness of breath after even mild forms of exercise, like walking up a flight of stairs
- Wheezing, which is a type of higher-pitched noisy breathing, especially during exhalations
- Chest tightness
- Chronic cough, with or without mucus
- You need to clear mucus from your lungs every day
- Frequent colds, flu, or other respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
In later stages, symptoms of COPD may also include:
- Swelling of the feet, ankles, or legs
- Weight loss
Symptoms of COPD are likely to be much worse if you currently smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
How do doctors diagnose and treat COPD?
There are four primary considerations when a medical practitioner diagnoses Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. These considerations include:
- breathlessness that is persistent and worsens over time;
- a chronic cough (over three months of coughing);
- overproduction of sputum for an extended period;
- history of smoking or exposure to dust, chemicals, and
There may be wheezing and tightness of the chest in addition to this. Doctors may have to do some tests to ensure it is COPD, not another disease that can mimic it, like pneumonia. The phrase “prevention is better than cure” applies strongly to COPD as there is no cure. It is best prevented. It should be noted that the best and most effective step to manage COPD is to stop exposure to all irritants –especially cigarettes. Smoking cessation is the most scientifically recognized treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. However, doctors can manage this condition with medications like Ventolin, which helps open up the airways, ambroxol to break down phlegm/mucus, ipratropium to reduce the secretion of mucus, and steroids like fluticasone to reduce swelling in the airways. They can be used in combinations to increase effectiveness. This is by no means an exhaustive list of medications, however.
Natural Treatment for COPD
Natural Treatment for COPD is another treatment for COPD that has been proven to be effective, and it helps reduce the symptoms of COPD with little to no side effects.
Below are the most common techniques used for the natural treatment of COPD:
Home remedies for COPD – the most common form of natural cure for COPD
Home remedies for COPD represent one of the most common approaches to natural treatments for COPD that can ease COPD symptoms at home.
Below are the most popular home remedies for COPD
Avoiding smoking and vaping
Cigarette smoke exposes your lungs to an irritant that causes physical damage. This is why smokers often develop COPD. Smoking is responsible for 8 out of every 10 deaths due to COPD. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and most people with COPD either smoke or are used to smoke. Breathing in lung irritants other than cigarette smoke — such as chemical fumes, dust, or air pollution — can also cause COPD.
Because COPD causes shortness of breath, it can be hard to stay active. Increasing your fitness levels can help with symptoms such as shortness of breath. However, exercise for COPD, such as walking, jogging, and biking, can be challenging with COPD. One study found that water-based exercise for COPD, such as aqua walking and swimming, is more straightforward with COPD and can improve fitness and quality of life. Other studies on alternative forms of exercise for COPD have suggested that yoga and tai chi can also benefit people with COPD by improving lung function and exercise tolerance. Get more tips on staying fit when you have COPD.
Essential oils for COPD – effective form of treatment for COPD
Many people turn to essential oils for COPD to help their symptoms. Essential oils for COPD are one of the home remedies for COPD that is also effective. However, as with any supplement, ask your doctor before using essential oils for COPD.
Breathing exercises – a vital component of natural treatment for COPD
Research shows that breathing exercises for COPD can help people with COPD by decreasing breathlessness, improving quality of life, and decreasing fatigue. Pursed-lip and diaphragmatic breathing are the two main types of breathing techniques recommended for people with COPD. They help people with COPD get air without struggling to breathe.
Breathing exercises for COPD include:
- Pursed-lip breathing. This is when a person inhales through their nose and exhales through tightly pursed lips.
- Diaphragm breathing. This means contracting the diaphragm to breathe more deeply. The belly visibly expands while breathing in and deflates when breathing out.
- This is a controlled breathing technique common in yoga practice. Pranayama involves concentrating on areas of the body involved in breathing.
Diet for COPD – an essential part of any treatment for COPD
Diet for COPD is a home remedy for COPD that can help prevent or manage some of the adverse health effects of COPD, a lung condition characterized by airflow limitation that makes it hard to breathe.
According to research, a healthful, well-balanced diet for COPD can have the following beneficial health effects in people with COPD:
- Reducing inflammation
- Maintaining and improving muscle strength
- Improving lung function
- Lowering metabolic and heart disease risk
Herbal medications for COPD – an effective and safe natural treatment for COPD
Some herbal treatments can be used to improve the conditions of COPD and help manage breathlessness. Some studies have been done on Chinese-based herbal medicines. Some of these medicines include Radix Scutellariae (Huang Qin), Herba Ephedra (Ma Huang), Semen Persicae (Tao Ren), Radix Ginseng (Ren Shen), Fructus Schisandrae (Wu Wei Zi), and Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Bai Zhu). Radix Scutellariae (Huang Qin), Herba Ephedra (Ma Huang), and Semen Persicae (Tao Ren) are used more for acute exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder where COPD suddenly gets worse or develops complications. In contrast, Fructus Schisandrae (Wu Wei Zi), Radix Ginseng (Ren Shen), and Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Bai Zhu) are used for COPD.
From the perspective of Chinese traditional medicine, herbs like Semen Armeniacae Amarum (Xin Ren) and Fructus Perillae (Zi Su Zi) reduce excessive mucus production. Radix ginseng is believed to arrest stubborn, persistent coughs.
Studies on these herbs suggest that some work similarly to orthodox medicines. The Chinese herbs – Semen Armeniacae Amarum (Xin Ren), Herba Ephedra (Ma Huang), Fructus Perillae (Zi Su Zi), and Radix Astragali (Huang Qi) most likely work in a similar manner to steroids like fluticasone. They work on the immune system and reduce lung inflammation, which helps improve breathing. Amygdalin, which is one of the active components of Semen Armeniacae Amarum (Xin Ren), according to some studies, may act similarly to salbutamol. However, more studies are needed to verify that.
Using herbs for COPD is another approach to natural treatment for COPD that causes little or no side effects.
Below are the most commonly used herbal treatments for COPD
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
- This herbal Treatment for COPD may relieve airway restriction and impaired lung function associated with COPD.
- Curcumin is a COPD herb commonly found in turmeric (Curcuma longa). Turmeric is a spice widely used in curries. Long used in traditional Asian Medicine, curcumin has been shown to reduce airway inflammation.
Red Sage (Salvia Miltiorrhiza)
- Red sage is an effective antioxidant, protecting the linings of blood vessels from injury when oxygen is temporarily cut off and then resumed, as in the case of COPD exacerbations.
Acupuncture – an ancient Chinese natural treatment for COPD
Acupuncture for COPD is a natural treatment for COPD that has been proven to help reduce the symptoms of COPD.
Acupuncture, an essential part of traditional Chinese Medicine, has been used for thousands of years in treating many painful and non-painful conditions. To date, it has become popular and widely practiced in many countries around the world.
It is reported that Acupuncture for COPD may help relieve COPD by reducing bronchial immune-mediated inflammation and by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
Homeopathy – #1 natural treatment for COPD
Homeopathic medicines can be a great combination with orthodox medicines or are worth a try in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders.
Although they are given based on principles of “like cures like,” scientific proof of their effectiveness in COPD is increasing. Homeopathic medications may provide a much more natural and organic way to treat COPD.
Some homeopathic remedies that can be used for COPD include:
Aspidosperma Q: This is one of the best therapies for COPD. It is a tonic for the lungs. It is perfect when breathlessness worsens with exercise or physical activity, which is very common in people with COPD.
Naphthalene 30 is used for difficulty breathing (dyspnea) and emphysema. It is suitable where there is a severe cough and production of copious amounts of mucus. Antimonium tart 30 and Antimonium Ars 30 are also helpful for this condition.
Curare 6 is used where there is shortness of breath. It is helpful in sleep apnea (blockage of the respiratory tract during sleep) and other respiratory problems like disturbing dry cough and breathlessness.
Senega and Strychninum 30 are helpful when a persistent cough comes with chest pain and respiratory issues like breathlessness.
Other homeopathic medications used to treat COPD include Bryonia alba for dry coughs and pressure in the chest, Phosphorus, Sulphur, and Calcarea Carbonica.
Treatment for COPD in Philadelphia
Homeopathic medicines can be a great combination with orthodox medicines or are worth a try in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders. Although they are given based on principles of Chinese Medicine, scientific proof of their effectiveness in COPD is increasing. Homeopathic medications may provide a much more natural and organic way to treat COPD.
At the Philadelphia Homeopathic Clinic, Dr. Tsan treats COPD using homeopathic remedies individually selected for each patient based on symptoms, generalities, and a person’s constitution.
To book your homeopathic evaluation appointment, call (267) 403-3085 or our online scheduling system.