A variety of medications are available to treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) because, as the American Lung Association states, there’s no single "best" treatment for everyone. Since each diagnosis is a little different, your doctor may recommend different medications for you than another patient.
Taking the right medication helps you breathe better, prevents flare-ups and lets you live more comfortably from day to day. Here’s a summary of some medications your doctor may recommend, provided by the American Lung Association and The New York Times.
- Bronchodilators and anticholinergic agents relax the muscles around airways, keeping them open and making it easier to breathe. Short-acting bronchodilators, which bring immediate relief, are the primary medications for most COPD patients. Long-acting bronchodilators provide slower but longer-acting relief. They should be taken for ongoing treatment, not quick relief.
- Beta2-agnostics may be the best option when bronchodilators or anticholinergics are no longer enough. This medication is often prescribed to patients with COPD stages II-IV.
- Anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and steroids are medications that reduce swelling to decrease mucus production. Most of these are inhaled and require a rinse of water to avoid an infection in your mouth called thrush. Others come in pill form and should only be taken to quicken recovery from a COPD exacerbation. The pill form has no long-term benefits and may cause side effects if taken regularly.
- Methylxanthines are a type of bronchodilator that might be diagnosed if your exacerbations are too severe for regular bronchodilators, corticosteroids or oxygen therapy to handle.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if a flare-up causes a bacterial infection. It’s vital that you take the medication as prescribed and finish the entire bottle or the condition could return stronger and harder to treat. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections.
- Vaccinations are important for those with COPD because the condition can lower your immunity and thus increase your risk for the flu and pneumonia. To protect yourself, plan to be vaccinated every year.
For more information about how to spot the signs and symptoms of a COPD spell, download this free guide today.