Just diagnosed?

Just diagnosed with COPD?

You’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—and 12 million Americans may be living with undiagnosed COPD. Now that you know you have COPD, we’re here to help you learn more about it. That way, you’ll be able to communicate more easily with your doctor about your symptoms and how you’re feeling, and what you can do to breathe easier.

What is COPD?

COPD can be serious and is usually progressive. While quitting smoking is the only thing that can slow the progression of COPD, there are treatment options your doctor may prescribe to help you breathe more easily. That means continuing to work with your doctor to control your symptoms, and taking your medicines as prescribed, will always be important.

When you have COPD, keeping your doctor in the loop will always be important.

Sign up for your free, customized doctor discussion guide now  >

When you have COPD, keeping your doctor in the loop will always be important.

Download your free doctor discussion guide so you can keep talking with your doctor about how you’re feeling and the treatment options available to you.

Tools to help you start the conversation.

You’ve taken an important step by choosing to educate yourself about COPD.

Download these free tools and use them to help talk with your doctor about COPD and breathing easier.

Trouble Breathing?

A screening tool to help you assess your risk and see if you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Use our screening tool

Just Diagnosed?

A discussion guide to help you talk with your doctor about treatment options.

Download this guide

Living With COPD?

A doctor discussion guide to make sure you’re doing all you can do to breathe easier.

Download this guide

COPD is treatable.

Your doctor may prescribe a medication to help you control the symptoms of COPD. While no treatment can reverse the damage that’s already been caused by COPD or stop progression in its tracks, there are treatment options that can help you breathe easier and control your COPD symptoms.

The information and resources in this section will help you figure out what kinds of questions to ask your doctor so you can be sure to get the most out of your conversations and your treatment plan.

COPD facts

COPD is a chronic lung disease that affects the airways in your lungs, causing them to become narrowed and blocked over time. This makes it harder and harder to breathe.

COPD can include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both.

Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation that can cause narrowing of the larger airways in your lungs. This limits airflow in and out of your lungs, which makes it hard to breathe. Unlike the bronchitis you may experience with a common cold or other virus, chronic bronchitis can come and go over months or years.

Your lungs contain tiny air sacs (called alveoli) clustered like bunches of grapes.

Emphysema is when the tiny air sacs in your lungs (called alveoli) get damaged and become enlarged. This may happen after the small airways leading to the air sacs in your lungs have narrowed. Both of these factors can make it harder to breathe out old air, leaving less room for fresh air to get in.

When you have COPD, keeping your doctor in the loop will always be important.

Sign up for your free, customized doctor discussion guide now  >

Tools to help you start the conversation.

You’ve taken an important step by choosing to educate yourself about COPD.

Download these free tools and use them to help talk with your doctor about COPD and breathing easier.

Trouble Breathing?

A screening tool to help you assess your risk and see if you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Use our screening tool

Just Diagnosed?

A discussion guide to help you talk with your doctor about treatment options.

Download this guide

Living With COPD?

A doctor discussion guide to make sure you’re doing all you can do to breathe easier.

Download this guide

COPD is usually progressive.

But there are things you can do that may help you breathe easier.

  • Quitting smoking can help slow the progression of COPD
  • Consider making lifestyle changes, doing
    breathing exercises, and avoiding COPD triggers
  • When taken daily, as prescribed by your doctor, some maintenance treatment options can help you control your symptoms and breathe more easily
  • Keep working closely with your doctor to make sure any medications you may be taking are helping to control your symptoms, and to learn about other measures you can take, such as getting a flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine, and treating other health conditions appropriately
copd and smoking

Quit smoking today

Treatment types

Get to know the COPD treatment types your doctor may prescribe.

One of the main goals of COPD treatment is to open obstructed airways. Most treatments fall into 2 main categories of inhaled COPD medicines called “maintenance” and “rescue” medicines. You may hear of other types of medicines to discuss with your doctor, as well.

There are also different types of inhalers available to deliver your medicine. Some inhalers utilize chemical propellants to deliver powdered medicine, while other inhalers utilize a spring action to deliver medicine in a slow-moving mist. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you learn how to use these inhalers and answer any questions you may have.

Here are some types of COPD treatment:

Daily maintenance medicines

  • Taken once, twice, or up to four times a day to help keep your airways open for up to 24 hours
  • Some are available in steroid-free options, while some contain steroids

Rescue medicines

  • The effects of one dose usually only last 4-6 hours
  • May be prescribed for use as needed when your airways are more restricted
  • Steroid-free

If you’re using your rescue inhaler too often, it may be time to talk with your doctor about using a daily maintenance treatment to better control your symptoms, so you may need to use your rescue inhaler less often. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these medicines based on your level of symptoms.

In more severe cases or as COPD progresses, your doctor may decide that you need oxygen therapy to help you breathe.

Make a management plan

Plan ahead to manage COPD.

While there is no cure for COPD, there are lifestyle and treatment options available to you to help you manage your symptoms. The first step in this process is establishing a strong and honest relationship with your doctor.

Have better doctor visits

  • Be as open and honest as possible about the symptoms you’re experiencing and the changes you’ve had to make to your life because of breathing trouble. Don't hold back—your doctor needs to know the truth about how you’re feeling in order to give you the best treatment possible
  • Be as descriptive as you can. Rather than just telling your doctor that you get tired easily, use real-life examples such as, "Whenever I vacuum, I need to sit down for a few minutes,” or “I haven’t been able to climb more than 4 steps at a time.”
  • Tell your doctor everything. The more you say, the better. Talk about your overall health, specifics about your breathing, and any other lifestyle changes
  • Bring a family member to your appointment for added support

Talk about all the parts of your treatment plan:

Make a plan and report back

Together, you and your doctor can build a thorough management plan. It’s important to stick to this plan so you can help keep your symptoms under control. Be sure to keep track of any changes in your health so you can discuss them during your next visit.

  • Pay attention to worsening symptoms—note increases in shortness of breath or intense coughing
  • Tell your doctor if you’re unable to perform your normal daily activities
  • Tell your doctor if you are using your rescue inhaler more often than normal. This could be a sign that your airways are narrowed
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to go over your medications and how they’re used

Get support.

You don’t have to do this alone.

Managing a chronic condition like COPD isn’t easy. Ask for help—from friends, family, and your doctor. The people in your life can help you consider treatment options, make lifestyle changes, give you emotional support, and attend to your symptoms.