Living with COPD?

Learn to handle COPD for the long term.

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and notice your breathing trouble is getting worse or if you are using your rescue inhaler more often than normal, it could be time to talk with your doctor about the different treatment options that are available. Some treatments are taken once a day, while others may be taken multiple times throughout the day.

COPD is usually progressive.

This means that your lungs may become more damaged and your airways more narrowed or blocked over time. Quitting smoking is the only thing that can slow the progression of COPD.

COPD is treatable.

While no treatment can reverse the damage done by COPD or stop progression in its tracks, quitting smoking slows progression. There are other things you can ask your doctor about to help you breathe more easily, too, including lifestyle changes and following the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor.

Better control over COPD symptoms means breathing easier. Talk with your doctor.

Sign up for your free customized doctor discussion guide >

Sign up to download a free discussion guide that can help you to keep talking with your doctor about how you’re feeling and the treatment options available to you. That way you can make sure you’re doing all you can to breathe easier.

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

In this section, you will discover ways to plan for the future and methods of management that can help you breathe better. Then make an appointment and talk to your doctor about doing more and breathing easier.

COPD and your future

Learn what to expect as time goes by.

Because COPD is usually progressive, airway inflammation and damage can become more severe over time.

While quitting smoking is the only thing that can slow the progression of COPD, there are things you can do to manage your condition.

  • Consider additional lifestyle changes, such as avoiding COPD triggers, maintaining good air quality in your home, and avoiding exposure to pollutants and allergens
  • Follow the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor. This plan could include a daily long-acting maintenance medicine for continuous relief, a short-acting maintenance medicine you can take for relief throughout the day, and a rescue inhaler for sudden symptom flare-ups. Sticking to your treatment plan could mean relying on a rescue inhaler less often
  • Keep working closely with your doctor to make sure any medications you may be taking are still working well enough, and to learn about other measures you can take, such as getting a flu shot or the pneumonia vaccine and treating other health conditions appropriately

Better control over COPD symptoms means breathing easier. Talk with your doctor.

Sign up for your free customized doctor discussion guide >

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

Keep talking about your symptoms and treatment plan.

If you’re already receiving COPD treatment but still not breathing well enough, there may be more you can do to breathe more easily. It’s possible that your doctor may decide to add on another medicine to help you get the relief you need to breathe easier.

That’s why it’s important for your doctor to reassess your symptoms and treatment plan over time. Scheduling regular appointments with your doctor to talk about your symptoms and treatment plan will always be key in controlling your COPD symptoms.

Treatment options

If you have COPD, you have options

When you’re living with COPD, controlling your symptoms is the name of the game. That’s why it will always be important to communicate with your doctor about how you’re feeling. If your doctor determines that your current treatment isn’t controlling your symptoms, there are other treatment options available that may be prescribed to help control them so you can breathe easier.

One of the main goals of COPD treatment is to open obstructed airways. There are 2 main types of inhaled COPD medicines that can help with this. They are called “maintenance” medicines and “rescue” medicines.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about how both of them can help with managing COPD.

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.

The main differences are:

Maintenance medicines are taken every day to help keep your airways open

  • May be long acting, short acting, or both
  • Are available in steroid-containing and steroid-free options

Rescue medicines may be prescribed to use when your symptoms suddenly get worse (flare-up)

  • Work fast to open airways, but the effects of one dose usually last only 4 to 6 hours
  • May be prescribed to use as needed

How to breathe easier

With COPD, little changes can help

COPD is a chronic condition. That means once you have it, you will always have it. Here are some ways to help manage COPD symptoms.

Lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes can help you manage your COPD.

  • If you smoke, try to quit. This is the only thing that helps to slow the progression of COPD
  • Try to avoid respiratory infections—talk to your doctor about the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, and avoid contact with sick people when possible

Work closely with your doctor.

  • Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking to help slow the progression of COPD
  • Discuss all of your treatment options and build a long-term COPD management plan
  • Take your medicines as prescribed, and periodically check in with your doctor to assess if they’re still controlling your symptoms
  • Ask your doctor if a daily maintenance treatment is right for you
  • Call your doctor at the first sign of an illness or increase in symptoms. It’s good to keep your doctor informed of any changes you experience

Better ways to breathe.

pursed-lip breathing

Better control over COPD symptoms means breathing easier. Talk with your doctor.

Sign up for your free customized doctor discussion guide >

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

Build a long-term plan

Plan for the future with COPD

COPD can become worse over time. Be sure to talk to your doctor as your symptoms and your needs change. You can work together to build a plan that will help you breathe easier.

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, you may want to 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
  • Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re using your rescue inhaler more than usual. This could be a sign that your airways are narrowed
  • Bring a family member to your appointment for added support

Talk about all the parts of your treatment plan:

Ask about the pneumonia vaccine and flu shot.

Remember, there’s more than one way to treat COPD. Explore all of your options with your doctor. Ask about the roles of rescue and maintenance treatments. Your doctor can tell you how these treatments work—and how they can work together.