The following was submitted to be published at healthcentral.com/copd.
So you’ve been diagnosed with COPD and now you want to live better with it. The best next step to gaining control of your COPD is finding a doctor you feel comfortable working with and creating a partnership with that doctor. In other words, the best way to control and live well with COPD is by creating a COPD Control Team. Here are eight things you and your doctor can accomplish as a team.
Learning COPD wisdom. You expect your doctor to keep up on all the latest wisdom regarding COPD, such as a good understanding of COPD Guidelines. Yet you’re not off the hook either, as you’ll need to educate yourself. The best way to do this is to find a good book like COPD for Dummies or by hanging out on sites like ours.
Smoking cessation. Your doctor will surely make you well aware that cigarette smoke is not the only cause of COPD, but it is the most common. You’ll learn that quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to slow down the progression of your disease. You’ll learn about the various methods to help you quit. It’s your job to decide on a plan of action to quitting smoking, and to stick with it.
Finding the best medicine for you. You expect your doctors to prescribe the best COPD medicine to help you breathe better. It’s also their job to make sure you understand why taking your medicine is important, and to make sure you are using proper technique with your inhalers. Your job is to follow their instructions and to take your medicines at the right times by using the right technique. Just remember that finding the best medicine will usually be a matter of trial and error and may take time.
Learning your COPD symptoms. Your doctor will help you learn about COPD symptom, such as worsening shortness of breath, feeling winded, chest pain or tightness, edema of the ankles, abnormal sounds coming from your airway (such as wheezes), increase in sputum production, and colorful sputum (green or brown). Your job is to pay attention to your body, learn what symptoms are unique to you, and seek help when you observe them. You’ll also want to take notes and communicate what you learn with your doctor.
Learning your COPD Triggers. Your doctor will help you recognize what might trigger your flare-ups, or make your COPD worse. Possible triggers include strong smells, allergens (dust mites, pollen, animal dander, mold, fungus and air pollution), cigarette smoke, fumes, cold air, high humidity, over eating, and overexertion. By learning your triggers and taking notes, you will be able to work with your doctor on developing a plan of action to control them.
Creating a COPD Action Plan. Your doctor will work with you in creating a written plan to help you decide what to do if you feel symptoms. You should keep your plan in a convenient location (such as on the refrigerator) so it’s easy to find by you or anyone trying to help you. You should also bring it to each appointment so you and your doctor can tweak it as needed.
Learning to take quick action. Certainly you’ll expect doctors to take quick action to help you feel better when you are having a flare-up. Your part will be to recognize your symptoms right away and refer to your COPD Action Plan so you can take immediate action on your own. You should call your doctor immediately when your symptoms start to get worse, as opposed to waiting. In other words, the sooner you seek help, the easier it will be for doctors to help you.
Keeping your appointments. Your doctor may request you be seen frequently until your COPD is under control. Your doctor will be at the appointment and be prepared. You will also be expected to make your appointments and come prepared. Come with questions and any new wisdom you have regarding your symptoms and triggers, preferably written down. Bring your COPD Action plan, as it should be reviewed with each visit. You should also bring your inhalers so your doctor can make sure you are still using them properly.
Living well with COPD. Your doctor works with you, and you work with your doctor. Together you are a COPD control team. This is the first step on your quest to gaining control of your COPD and living well and long with it.