You’ve been diagnosed with COPD. This can be a confusing — and even overwhelming — time. There’s a lot of information to process.
Working with your healthcare team and asking the right questions can help you better understand how COPD affects you, and can help you learn how to manage your symptoms.
Here are seven essential questions to ask your doctor.
What is COPD?
This is a good question to discuss with your doctor. It’s something you can research on your own through credible sources.
Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about different websites, books, and even blogs that might help you better understand what COPD is and how it may affect your life.
What caused my COPD?
Some people may already know the cause when they’re diagnosed, but sometimes the cause is less obvious.
The primary cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. However, even people who don’t smoke may develop COPD.
Other potential causes may include secondhand smoke or inhaling irritants in the air at your work. There’s also a rare genetic form called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Learning the cause can help you and your doctor decide what steps to take to best manage your disease.
What stage am I in?
There are four stages of COPD.
Stages 1-2 are early stages and are considered mild and moderate, respectively. Stages 3-4 are considered severe and very severe, respectively.
COPD is a gradual disease that for most people progresses slowly over time. Understanding the stage you’re in can help you better understand how the disease is affecting you. It can also help your doctor determine how best to manage your COPD.
How can I best manage my COPD?
COPD is a treatable condition. Symptoms can be controlled with the right interventions. The progression can be slowed, sometimes significantly. People are living better and longer with COPD than ever before. This includes the later stages.
Working with your doctor on developing a strategy for managing your COPD is important in helping you live better and longer. Here are some examples of useful strategies:
- The first management step most doctors recommend is to avoid lung irritants that make your COPD symptoms worse. If you smoke, your doctor will probably recommend you stop smoking.
- If air or chemical pollution in your workplace is the cause, your doctor may recommend you change jobs or request accommodations to work in a different environment.
- Your doctor may prescribe medications to help control your symptoms.
- They may also recommend that you learn some new exercises or exercise more frequently.
- Your doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation. They will consider your stage, symptoms, and specific circumstances to help find the right combination of therapies.
What is pulmonary rehabilitation?
Your doctor may suggest pulmonary rehabilitation to help with your COPD symptoms. This is a program where experts will help you find specific breathing exercises as well as a fitness plan to help improve your lung function.
Typically, they will design a program that works best for you based on your current lung function, age, and any other health considerations. They will show you how best to do the exercises. They can also teach you about your disease and how to get the most out of your treatment.
This type of therapy may be recommended at any stage of COPD. Your doctor can help you determine if pulmonary rehabilitation would benefit you.
What treatment will help me best manage it?
There are many treatments available to help people with COPD. Controller medications are taken every day to reduce and prevent symptoms. Most are inhaled medications that are taken only once or twice a day.
Rescue medications are taken only when you experience symptoms. This is the kind of medication you take with you wherever you go in case you need it. Your doctor can help you decide what medications will work best for you.
Are there non-medicinal treatments that might help me?
Your treatment depends on your stage, symptoms, and other health factors. Here are some options:
- Beyond medications to control symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you stay as active as possible. This may also include a recommendation that you do COPD-friendly exercises daily.
- Some doctors may recommend you see a dietician to help you create a COPD-friendly diet.
- There are also some surgeries that may benefit some people with COPD. One is a procedure called a lung-volume reduction surgery. Another is lung replacement surgery.
- You may also be eligible to participate in clinical trials for new COPD therapies.
These are all options you can ask your doctor about. They’ll be able to provide you with more information and help you make informed decisions about your care.
These are just a few of the questions to consider asking after you get your diagnosis. Keep working with your doctor and healthcare team. They can assist you in finding the right tools and resources to help you manage your COPD and live a longer and healthier life.
UK/MED/19/0183 August 2019