COPD | Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

At MaineHealth, pulmonologists and other lung specialists care for patients with respiratory conditions that include COPD. We treat emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases to help patients breathe easier.

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes it hard to breathe. COPD refers to two long-term diseases that cause breathing problems. The diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD gets worse over time, but doctors can help symptoms and slow down the disease. Cigarette smoke often is the cause of COPD. But air pollution, inherited risks passed down in families, and your medical history also may have a role.

COPD Symptoms

Chronic Cough Is a Sign of COPD

The main COPD symptom is a cough that does not go away. The cough may be worse in the morning or when you exercise or smoke. Mucus looks yellow. As the disease gets worse, people wheeze and have shortness of breath doing daily tasks or even at rest.

COPD Diagnosis

Your Provider May Perform a Series of Tests

If you have a long-term cough and are feeling rundown, see your primary care doctor or family healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may do lung function tests, a chest X-ray and blood tests to tell if you have COPD.

People with COPD have damage to their airways and air sacs in their lungs. A breathing test called spirometry or a pulmonary function test confirms you have COPD and helps guide your doctor when prescribing medicines to treat your symptoms.

COPD Treatment & Self-Care

Patients Play a Big Role in Their Health

Treatment and a healthy lifestyle can slow down the progress of the disease. Patients can feel better and start to live more active lives. Patients have a big role in their health, too. Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke are important steps to take.

  • Quitting smoking
  • Prescription medicine
  • Lung rehabilitation (physical therapy and exercise)
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Surgery
  • Lung transplant

COPD treatment includes inhalers

Inhalers, medicine in the form of a mist or powder, can help you feel better and reduce how often you have a flare-up. There are several different types of inhalers.

  • Quick-relief: use when you’re wheezy or short of breath.
  • Controller: a medicine used every day to prevent shortness of breath. 
  • Devices: know how to use your inhalers or nebulizer. Ask your doctor, nurse or respiratory therapist to show you.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

Education, exercise and counseling are part of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Therapists help people with exercise, so they can breathe easier. Our pulmonary rehabilitation exercise and education programs help overall health.

Staying active

Ask your doctor or nurse about a Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) program in your area. PR programs teach patients about their lung disease, how to manage their symptoms, how to save their energy,

Talk to Your Provider About a Self-Care Plan

A COPD action plan is a one page form that helps you recognize the early signs of a flare up and when to call your doctor or nurse. Stopping a flare-up early will help keep you out of the hospital and live better with COPD. Ask your doctor or nurse to fill out a plan with you.

 

Instructions on Taking Inhaled Medications

For inhaled medications to be effective, it is important to learn how to take them properly. Listed below are Patient Instruction Sheets with Pictures on how to take your medications. Contact your provider with questions.

Patient Instruction Sheets with Demonstration Pictures

Tips for Staying Healthy After COPD Diagnosis

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about a flu shot every year.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about a pneumonia vaccine.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about advance care planning. Let your doctor know what your healthcare goals are and what’s important to you.

  • There are many different ways doctors can help people with a serious illness live fully by preventing suffering, managing symptoms and coordinating communication between many caregivers.

COPD: What You Need to Know

"Living Well With COPD" is a guide to help you manage your condition and live a fuller life.

 

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