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Medications Help Manage COPD Symptoms

By

Paige Greenfield

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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What COPD Does to Your Heart

People with COPD are two to three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without it.
copd, doctor listening to man's chest, chest, doctor, breathing, asthma

Although COPD has no cure, medications can make a big difference in the way you feel. The goals of treating COPD are to reduce your symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and ward off complications. Remembering to take your medications means that you can feel as well as possible.


Here are some common medications your doctor may prescribe to help you breathe easier.

Bronchodilators

These drugs help relax the muscles around your airways. This allows air to flow more easily so that you're better able to breathe. Most bronchodilators come in a device called an inhaler, which delivers the medication directly into your lungs.

Scott Marlow, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Director at the Cleveland Clinic, demonstrates several breathing exercises for people with COPD that will help you get moving again.

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

If you have a mild form of COPD, your physician may prescribe a short-acting bronchodilator. This means that you use it only when you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath. The medicine lasts for four to six hours. If you have moderate or severe COPD, however, you might use a long-acting bronchodilator to keep the airways open. Most are used daily and last for about 12 hours. People with moderate or severe COPD may use a short-acting bronchodilator in addition to a long-acting one.

Tip: Many of the devices that deliver these medications look alike or have similar colors. Make sure you're careful to take the right medication at the right time.

Inhaled Steroids

Steroids help reduce inflammation in your airways. Like bronchodilators, steroids used to treat COPD often come in an inhaler so that they can go right into your lungs. Your doctor may tell you to use your inhaler daily or only when your symptoms flare up, depending on your condition.

Antibiotics

People with COPD have a greater risk for pneumonia and may get colds or the flu more frequently. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help combat infections, since they can make your COPD worse.

Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

If you have a more severe form of the disease, you may have low levels of oxygen in your blood. Your doctor may put you on supplemental oxygen therapy to help you breathe. The inhaled air/oxygen mixture enters your lungs through plastic tubes that fit inside your nostrils or a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Using oxygen can help you accomplish everyday tasks more easily and sleep better at night. In the long run, it protects your heart from damage and may even extend your life. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 4, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Lung Disease Fact Sheet. National Women’s Health Information Center. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/lung-disease.html
  2. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of COPD? National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/signs
  3. How Is COPD Treated? National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment
  4. What Is Oxygen Therapy? National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/oxt/
  5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000091.htm
  6. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—Control Drugs. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000025.htm


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