Live Better with COPD Treatment

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Treatment

If you are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, you should know that there are COPD treatments available that can make life easier. At The Lung Center at Penn Highlands, our experienced pulmonologists and respiratory therapists offer many treatments to help ease the symptoms of COPD. The Lung Center also is the first facility in the region to offer the Zephyr Endobronchial Valve, a minimally invasive procedure to help treat the symptoms of emphysema, one form of COPD.

COPD Treatment

If you have COPD, your primary care provider will help manage your day-to-day care. Your provider can screen you for COPD, diagnose the disease, and prescribe medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, and oxygen as needed.

If your COPD is no longer responding to treatment or is in an advanced stage, your primary care provider may refer you to a pulmonologist at The Lung Center. Pulmonologists are internal medicine physicians with special training in diseases affecting the lungs and bronchial tubes.

Although there is currently no cure for COPD, many COPD treatments are available that will help reduce your symptoms so that you can do more. Your options will depend on the type of COPD you have and its severity. The pulmonologists and respiratory care experts at The Lung Center at Penn Highlands offer many COPD treatments including:

  • Medication in a pill, inhaler, or nebulizer
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation with education and exercise
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Surgery (for severe cases of COPD)

Zephyr Endobronchial Valve

There’s now an effective treatment for patients with severe emphysema who feel short of breath all the time, even when using COPD medications or oxygen. The Zephyr® Valve is a minimally invasive device that can be implanted without any incisions.

During the one-time procedure, while you are under sedation, the surgeon will insert a bronchoscope, a small tube with a camera, into your lungs through your nose or mouth. Four tiny valves are placed in the airways to block off the diseased parts of the lungs. The valves work by reducing hyperinflation, preventing air from being trapped in the diseased area of the lung and allowing healthier parts of the lung to take in more air. The procedure typically requires a hospital stay of three nights.

Patients who have had the Zephyr valve procedure are able to breathe easier and experience less shortness of breath. They report being able to take full breaths immediately after the procedure and are more active and back to everyday activities within a few days. Read more.

Worried you may have COPD? Please see a primary care doctor.

Living Well with COPD

People with COPD can live full, satisfying lives as long as they properly manage their condition. Your physician will help you devise a care management plan specific to your needs. It may include:

  • Quitting smoking. If you currently smoke, this is the most important step you can take to extend your life. Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
  • Losing weight. Extra pounds make breathing more difficult.
  • Exercising. The breathlessness that goes along with physical activity and COPD is uncomfortable and scary, but it is not dangerous. Learn safe and effective ways of exercising through our pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals. Large meals may make breathing more difficult.
  • Getting a flu shot. Symptoms of COPD can be triggered or exacerbated by colds, flus, and allergies. Take precautions to stay healthy.

COPD is one of the top causes of death and disability in the U.S. While currently incurable, COPD treatments can help prevent and slow the progression of the disease. People who get a diagnosis early and take steps to manage their COPD can live many years with the disease.

To learn more about COPD and its treatment options, download our COPD Brochure located in the resources sidebar.

COPD Symptoms and Causes

COPD is the term used to describe any progressive lung disease that leads to increasing breathlessness. The most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Most COPD patients have a combination of these two conditions.

The most common COPD symptoms are shortness of breath, chronic cough, and excessive mucus. If you have COPD symptoms at any age, you should talk to your primary care physician about being tested. COPD can be diagnosed with a simple test called a spirometry. It’s noninvasive and painless. All you have to do is blow into a mouthpiece. The test will measure your lung function. It can detect COPD even before symptoms appear.

The vast majority of COPD is caused by inhaling pollutants. Tobacco smoke is the most common pollutant, but others include dust, asbestos, carbon monoxide, chemical fumes and mold. People who don’t smoke are most likely to develop COPD if they work or worked around toxins for many years.
Sometimes people get COPD who have never smoked or been exposed to toxic amounts of pollutants. These people likely have a genetic predisposition for the disease, meaning their risk was passed down from their parents. You are at particular risk of COPD if you:

  • Are a current or former smoker
  • Have a history of exposure to secondhand smoke, dust, chemical fumes or mold
  • Have a parent with COPD

COPD vs. Asthma

COPD is sometimes confused with asthma because its symptoms are similar: coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, particularly with activity. But asthma is a separate respiratory condition with different causes and treatment options.
Age at onset of symptoms is one way to tell COPD and asthma apart. Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood and may get better with age. COPD typically doesn’t show up until after age 40 and gets worse over time. An evaluation by a physician and diagnostic tests may be needed to confirm whether it’s COPD or asthma.

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