Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD can't be cured, but it can be treated. Early diagnosis, lifestyle changes and appropriate drug treatments can help you lead a normal and active life, feel better and stay out of hospital.
Communicating Well with your Healthcare Provider
When you are diagnosed with COPD, it can feel overwhelming. You will likely have many questions and the answers may not always be clear at first. Not all people with COPD have the same symptoms and treatment may differ from person to person. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options and get answers to all of your questions.
Make sure you build a good relationship with your doctor and other healthcare providers. They are there to help you manage your COPD, help you create your action plan and answer any
questions you may have.
If you have already quit smoking – congratulations! You have done the best thing possible to improve your health and slow the progression of your COPD. If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Some people think that once they have COPD, there is no point in quitting, but that is not true. Quitting prevents additional lung damage and makes it less likely that you will get chest infections, coughs and
Quitting is the most important thing you can do to improve your health, but we know it can be hard. The good news is that there are people, programs and medications to help you quit. Your chance of success is highest if you use a combination of methods, like counseling and support services along with nicotine replacement therapy (e.g. - gum or patch) or other medications.
For help to quit smoking, talk to:
- The Canadian Lung Association at 1-866-717- 2673
- Your family doctor or pharmacist
- A local support group or cessation (quitting) specialists
- Your family and friends for on-going support
Medical treatments to help you quit smoking include:
- Nicotine replacement therapy, such as the nicotine patch, gum or lozenges. You can get these without a prescription at most pharmacies.
- Bupropion hydrochloride and varenicline tartrate: These are prescription medicines that work on the “addiction centre” in the brain, reducing your craving to smoke.
Most people try to quit many times. If you have tried and failed, know that you are not alone and keep trying. Quitting smoking gets easier with practice. Each time you try to quit, you boost your chances of quitting for good. Most people try four or five times before they quit for good.
Take Your COPD Medications
COPD medicines cannot cure COPD, but they can improve your symptoms. Your doctor will prescribe the COPD medicines that are right for you. Learn more about COPD medicines .
Vaccines for Flu and Pneumonia
Vaccines (shots) for flu and pneumonia help protect you against these illnesses and lower your chance of a flare-up. You need to get a flu shot every year. Most people only need the pneumonia shot once, but some might need a booster (a second dose). Ask your doctor if you need a booster.
Not everyone who has COPD needs to “be on oxygen.” However, if you have lung damage from COPD and have low oxygen levels in your blood, you may need supplemental oxygen to keep your oxygen
levels up. Home oxygen, like other treatments for COPD, is not a cure but it can help improve your quality of life and help you live longer. If your doctor prescribes you home oxygen, it is very important to
treat it like any other medication prescription. This means that you must use your home oxygen as your doctor prescribes and use the flow rate and frequency he or she recommends. For some people, this might mean using oxygen all day, for others it might mean using oxygen only at night or while exerting yourself (like when you’re walking or moving a lot).
Home oxygen does not replace other treatments you may have been prescribed. It is an additional treatment to your other prescriptions of inhalers and/or pulmonary rehabilitation. It means your home oxygen & other prescriptions go hand-in-hand. If it is determined that you need home oxygen to improve your blood-oxygen levels, you will need to talk to a home oxygen company’s health care professional to determine what equipment is best for you. Oxygen therapy is generally delivered as a gas from a cylinder or concentrator. Most often you will be on oxygen through small nasal prongs that fit into your nostrils, but sometimes you may need to use a mask that covers your mouth and nose. Breathing in this extra oxygen raises low blood-oxygen levels, eases the strain on your body and makes breathing easier.
Your body cannot store oxygen, so the therapy works only while you use it. If you take off your oxygen mask or remove the prongs, your blood oxygen level will drop within a few minutes. Like any other
prescription medicine, oxygen must be used carefully and properly. You need to follow instructions and follow all the safety precautions. If you have any questions about proper use of your inhalers or other treatments, be sure you ask someone from your COPD team.
Lung transplant is not a cure, but a treatment. Lung transplants may be an option for some people with advanced COPD, who no longer smoke and who will not survive without a lung transplant. There are
specifi c requirements to qualify for a lung transplant, and, if you meet these, you will be put on a wait list for a transplant. The wait might be long. In a lung transplant, surgeons take out one or two of the lungs and replace them with healthy lungs. The surgery can be risky. People who receive transplants must take immunosuppressants (anti-rejection medicines) for the rest of their lives.
Lung Volume Reduction Surgery
This type of surgery is done in order to help some people with COPD breathe better. If your doctor decides you qualify for this type of surgery, it may help with shortness of breath. During the surgery,
pieces of the damaged lung tissue are removed. This allows the healthy tissue to “work better.”
This page was updated November 2019.