COPD - New Treatments
Smoking Can Cause COPD
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs, which causes obstructive airflow. The main cause of this disease is smoking, but long term exposure to irritating matter or particulate also causes this disease. Autoimmune diseases may also cause COPD.
In the U.S. there are 12 million people with COPD and 120,000 die each year. The U.K.. has an estimated 1.2 million with COPD, and there are 251 million people worldwide with this disease. It is estimated that half of the people with COPD do not know they have that diagnosis. Men are 6 times more likely to die from this disease than women.
What is COPD?
Unfortunately, the symptoms of COPD do not usually appear until there is significant damage to the lungs. One type of COPD is bronchiectasis and I have been diagnosed with this disease. I never smoked but grew up with smoking parents. Additionally, I have systemic lupus and sjogren's disease, and bronchiectasis is common for these auto-immune diseases.
Typical symptoms for COPD according to Mayo Clinic include:
- “Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chest tightness
- Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
- A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
- Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs”
Exacerbations are common for COPD patients, then symptoms become worse and antibiotics are often required. The influenza vaccine and pneumonia vaccines are imperative for someone with COPD.
COPD patients almost always have some type of inhaler for daily use and a rescue inhaler, such as Ventolin or Proventil for those occasions when they get very short of breath. The more serious COPD cases will be on supplemental oxygen. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone may be given orally or in an inhaler form. One recurring problem is infections, which are more difficult to treat when a patient is taking corticosteroids.
Types of inhaler treatments include:
- Bronchodilator that helps to open your airways by relaxing the airway muscles
- Corticosteroid that reduces inflammation in the lungs
- Combinations of different types of bronchodilators
- A bronchodilator and corticosteroid combination
- Rescue inhalers for emergency situations
Several studies have shown that less than half of people know how to correctly use an inhaler and the inhaler will not help you if it is improperly used. It is important to have your doctor show you the proper way to use your inhaler. Your mouth must be held tightly around the mouthpiece, and when you trigger the medication a deep breath is necessary until the mist has stopped.
COPD (& Emphysema) Explained Clearly
Some New Inhalers
There are numerous inhalers on the market with several new ones recently available.
- Trelegy Ellipta is the only inhaler with 3 medications. It was recently approved (10 µg fluticasone, an inhaled corticosteroid; 62.5 µg umeclidinium, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist; and 25 µg vilanterol, a long-acting β2-adrenergic agonist) for a once daily dose for chronic bronchitis or emphysema patients.
- Breo Ellipta is a combination of two medications: fluticasone furoate, an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), and vilanterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (a type of drug that relaxes the muscles around your airways and helps you clear mucus)
- Bevespi Aerosphere combines two long-acting bronchodilators for twice a day use that is for maintenance. Stiolto Respimat is another inhaler with similar medication and it is more affordable.
- Atrovent contains ipratropium, an anticholinergic bronchodilator. It is used in maintenance treatment of COPD.
- Pulmicort is an inhaler that contains budesonide, a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation.
- Arcapta Neohaler is the name for an indacaterol inhaler that is a very long-term inhaler used once daily for COPD. It is prescribed as a capsule or a dry-powder inhaler
- Tudorza Pressair is a long-acting bronchodilator used twice daily
Doctors will prescribe medications for nebulizer treatments for COPD flare-ups. The aerosol spray is aimed at reducing the number and severity of attacks. The drugs used in nebulizer treatments include bronchodilators, antibiotics, anticholinergics, corticosteroids and mucolytic agents.
I have used Ipratropium Bromide and Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation solution for flare-ups. This medication will leave you shakey for a while after the treatment, which I did not like. I found Acetylcysteine to be more effective without that side effect.
It is important to keep your nebulizer equipment clean. Always wash your hands before preparing your medicine. Close your mouth tightly around the mouthpiece with no gaps so the misting medicine gets deep into your lungs. Breathe in slowly, taking deep breaths until all the medicine is gone. It is also important to disinfect the tubing and mouthpiece after every other treatment.
Airway Clearance for Bronchiectasis
Vest therapy (high frequency chest compression) is being used by over 120,000 people who suffer from COPD, bronchiectasis, and even cystic fibrosis. This vest is attached to a machine. The vest is safe and the machine provides high-frequency oscillation for the inflatable vest. It actually performs physical therapy, which helps the patient clear secretions in the lungs. This helps prevent infection and hospitalizations. It is typically used twice daily for 30 minutes while you watch TV, use your computer or read a book.
While COPD cannot be healed, it can be controlled with the variety of new inhalers, new medicine for nebulizers and vest therapy. It is important to use each one of these treatments exactly as prescribed for the best results. Reducing shortness of breath and the number of infections is worth that effort. Getting available pneumonia shots and the flu vaccine will also help prevent hospitalizations.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Pamela Oglesby