Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD can be a challenging disease, but the good news is that it responds to many therapies. More are being developed, including stem cell therapy.

 

Here are some options when it comes to COPD:

 

Stop Smoking

Stopping smoking can clear up a mild case of COPD and greatly slow down the progression of a more moderate disease. Of course, the toughest thing about this lifestyle change is quitting smoking in the first place, as nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known. The patient should ask their doctor about nicotine patches and other ways stop stop smoking. The patient should also avoid entering areas with second hand smoke and avoid exposure to any pollutants that irritate their lungs.

 

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy for COPD is a new and promising therapy for the disease. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to turn into almost any tissue in the body, including lung tissue. During stem cell therapy, the patient donates a small amount of blood or bone marrow. The stem cells are separated out then returned to the bloodstream. They pass through the heart and into the lungs, where they can heal the damage caused by COPD.

 

Bronchodilators

Bronchodilators help the muscles in the lungs and the respiratory tract to relax which eases breathing and reduces coughing. There are long and short-acting bronchodilators. The doctor prescribes them according to how severe the COPD is. They are sold under various brand names.

 

Inhaled Corticosteroids

These inhaled medicines ease inflammation in the respiratory tract and are good for people who have exacerbations. Exacerbations happen when the symptoms of COPD suddenly get worse after the patient is exposed to a pathogen or an irritant. They can last for several days or even weeks. Sometimes these inhaled steroids are combined with bronchodilators.

 

Oral Corticosteroids

These drugs are given to patients who are having exacerbations. They are only taken for the duration of the crisis and are not meant to be taken long term.

 

Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors

Like bronchodilators and inhaled steroids, Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors both relax the airways and reduce inflammation, even though they are not to be used in the place of bronchodilators.

 

Theophylline

This medication is related to caffeine and is indeed found in coffee and tea. When it’s prescribed as a pure drug, it makes breathing easier and lowers the incidence of exacerbations. Theophylline is very inexpensive and only needs to be taken in low doses.

 

Antibiotics

It is important that the COPD patient avoid infections that can lead to lung diseases such as pneumonia and the flu. These diseases can make their COPD worse. Though antibiotics aren’t given prophylactically, doctors prescribe them during exacerbations. One antibiotic, azithromycin, does seem to stave off exacerbations, but doctors don’t know exactly how. Though it’s not an antibiotic, the patient should also remember to get their yearly flu shot.

 

Lung Therapy

For people with a moderate to severe disease, lung therapies help. They include oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.

 

In oxygen therapy, the patient is given supplemental oxygen. Some patients only need oxygen at night or as they go about daily tasks. Others need it around the clock. Advances in oxygen therapy have allowed the patient to carry portable oxygen tanks with them so they no longer need to be housebound.

 

During pulmonary rehabilitation, the patient is taught to live with their COPD via partnering with counselors. They teach the patient the correct exercises and diet that support their physical and mental health while they live with their disease.

 

Surgery

When other options fail, the doctor may recommend surgery to extend the patient’s life. The patient can opt for a lung transplant if they meet certain specifications. Even if a lung transplant is successful, the patient will need to take drugs to suppress their immune system to prevent the lung being rejected.

 

In lung volume reduction, the surgeon resects areas of damaged tissue from the upper lobes of the lungs. This provides more space in the chest cavity and allows more of the healthy lung to expand. In a similar operation called bullectomy, large, pathological air spaces in the lung called bullae are removed to help the patient breathe. Bullae can impede breathing.