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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to gain control of your COPD

The following was originally published at healthcentral/copd on February 4, 2015

Gaining Control of your COPD

So you’ve been diagnosed with COPD and want to gain control of it before it controls you. Here are 10 steps to help you do just that.

1. Call your doctor and report your concerns.
  • I am unable to walk to the bathroom without getting winded
  • I don’t have the energy to go to work
  • I have a constant cough that won’t go away
  • I’m coughing up yellow phlegm
  • I feel chest tightness am unable to take a deep breath 
2. Work with your doctor and set goals you want to achieve.
  • I want to be able to do my normal, daily activities
  • I want to be able to walk without getting short of breath
  • I don't want to miss work days
  • I want to gain control of this nagging cough
  • I want to breathe normal, or at least breathe better than I am right now
  • I want to improve the quality of my life 
3. Your doctor will create a treatment regime for you. This may include:
  1. Medicine you take every day to help improve your lung function
  2. Oxygen you wear all day, or sometimes just at night
  3. Quitting smoking, if you haven’t done so already
  4. Creating a COPD action plan to help you treat COPD flare-ups
  5. Joining a COPD rehabilitation program
  6. Making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding things that trigger your COPD. 
4.  Meet with your doctor again. You’ll probably need to make regularly scheduled doctor visits in order to gain and maintain control of your disease. You’ll also need to see your doctor when you experience early signs of COPD flare-ups. Your treatment regime may need to be adjusted from time to time in order to regain or maintain good control.

5 Listen to your doctor. Part of being a gallant COPD patient is listening to your doctor and any other experts who gives you advice. They are the experts, and their goal is to teach you to become an expert too. By listening to their advice, and doing exactly as they say, or at least doing it to the best of your ability, you should be able to live well with this disease. If your doctor makes new recommendations, even if it’s something you think you will not like, don’t be too proud to try it.
6.  Try new medicine. On a similar note, there are constantly newer, better, stronger, and safer medicines entering the market. If your doctor recommends something new, don’t be afraid to try it. Even if you think your current regime is working fine, you may find that you feel even better with a newer medicine.

7.  Take all your medicine exactly as prescribed. Many of the medicines prescribed for COPD must be taken every day in order to work. For this reason it’s important for you to take them exactly as prescribed. The good news here is that most COPD medicines now only need to be taken once or twice a day. Many experts recommend taking them just before you brush your teeth in the morning and at night.

8.  Learn your COPD triggers and try to avoid them. COPD air passages are often inflamed and narrow, and this gets worse when exposed to certain irritants, such as cigarette smoke, dust, strong smells, pollen, molds, pollution, and cold air. You must learn what your triggers are in order to control them.

9.  When your COPD flares up, let your doctor know right away. Even if youthink your COPD is flaring up, let your doctor know right now. Your doctor can tweak your treatment regime or provide some simple advice to help you get better fast. Sometimes he may ask you to visit an emergency room. The goal here is to treat your flare up early and aggressively before it gets so bad. A good way of helping you decide when to seek help is to work with your doctor on creating a COPD Action Plan.

10. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. When you have this kind of disease there are going to be bad days. Think of these setbacks as opportunities to regroup and recharge.

It’s going to take some work on your part, there’s no doubting that. Still, there is plenty of evidence now that the progression of COPD can be slowed so you can add quality to your life.

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