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Medication, exercise best tools to cope with COPD

Q. I was just diagnosed with COPD and chronic bronchitis. What are my treatment options?

A: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD get symptoms and flare-ups because of inflammation in the airways and tight bronchial tubes. This is especially true for those with chronic bronchitis. Treatment is aimed at minimizing these effects.

If you’re still smoking, you must quit now. It’s the only way to possibly prevent COPD from getting worse.

The most commonly prescribed treatments for COPD are inhaled drugs. They include:

• A long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator (LABA) to open tight airways, such as salmeterol (Serevent) or formoterol (Foradil)

• A corticosteroid to reduce airway inflammation, such as beclomethasone (QVAR), budesonide (Pulmicort) and fluticasone (Flovent)

• A product that combines these two, such as Advair or Symbicort

• A long-acting anticholinergic to keep lung airways open, such as tiotropium (Spiriva)

Of the treatment options, a product that combines an inhaled LABA and corticosteroid is considered the best first choice.

Staying physically active and dedicating time each day to a structured exercise routine are very important. Your lungs may not be able to provide optimal oxygen delivery to your muscles, so you must keep your muscles active and strong to allow them to use oxygen most efficiently.

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Dr. Howard LeWine is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., and chief medical editor of Internet publishing at Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School.