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Make certain you know about your choices and what steps you need to manage it.  We have a list of questions that you can consider as prompts to help you – see our list – if you do not know the answers to these questions make sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider at your next visit.

COPD is a common lung disease and is sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis.  It causes difficulty breathing and restricts airflow in the lungs. The damage to the lungs can be exacerbated by getting blockages caused by phlegm.  Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing – and the lack of oxygen can lead to tiredness.   People with a history of smoking or exposure to air pollution have a higher risk as these are the most common causes of COPD.

COPD is not curable, but symptoms can be managed and help slow the progression of the condition and help control the symptoms.  Careful self-management of your overall wellness will help you to enjoy a better quality of life.  So, individuals who exercise more, maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking (if they are still smoking), and practice breathing techniques will help improve their lung capacity.  These will be combined with therapies such as medications, oxygen, and pulmonary rehabilitation.  In advanced cases, your provider may discuss some surgical options, but these are not always suitable and come with added risks.

If you are still a smoker – and have been diagnosed with COPD – it is imperative to seek help to stop and stopping smoking is by far the most important step in helping you to slow down the disease.

Questions to Ask My Healthcare Provider about COPD

Communication between you and your healthcare provider is essential. You should feel comfortable talking about all your concerns. Feel free to ask any questions about your care. Providers should also welcome questions about their experience and qualifications.

  • What tests do I need?
  • What initial treatment do you recommend?
  • How certain is my diagnosis? Is it possible that I have something other than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
  • How severe is my condition?
  • What goals should we work toward?
  • What can I hope to achieve through treatment and good self-management for my condition?
  • (If a smoker) How do I quit smoking?
  • What sort of exercise program do you recommend? Why?
  • Should I change my diet?
  • Do I need to lose or gain weight? How can I lose or gain weight?
  • What medications do you recommend for me? Why?
  • What are the possible side effects of the medications?
  • How long should I keep taking this medication?
  • Can the different medications I am taking interact with each other?
  • What other treatments do you recommend? Why?
  • Do I need to avoid any activities? Should I change how I do them?
  • Am I at risk for any other conditions because of my COPD?
  • What other monitoring do I need?
  • How often will I need to have checkups?
  • How many of your patients have COPD?
  • Has my COPD been caught early or what stage does your provider assess you as being?
  • Are there any vaccines I should ensure I have now that I have this diagnosis?
  • When should I seek help from my provider if I feel I am getting worse?
  • What do you recommend if my COPD symptoms become very severe?
  • At what point might I expect to discuss if surgery is an option and what might that involve?
  • I understand bronchoscopies may be occasionally needed, when might this happen and what can I expect?
  • How long can I expect to live with COPD?
  • Ensure you understand the risks of each intervention – so ask the provider to explain whenever you are facing a new approach to treatment.

You have a team working hard to keep you well, but they cannot do it alone. You are a key member of the team. Be open and honest when you talk to doctors, nurses, or others. Let them know about problems you are having with the treatment plan or symptoms.

Understand your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and what steps you need to manage it. Ask plenty of questions. This will help you make better choices on a day-to-day basis. The more active you are in your care, the better the outcome will be.

Follow Your Care Plan

Daily habits can impact your COPD. Understand the steps listed in your care plan such as:

  • Quit smoking
  • Stay away from smoke, dust, and smog
  • Do not spend time in places that are very hot, cold, or high in altitude
  • Reach and keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly

Ask for help if you are having trouble making these changes. Do not feel embarrassed if you are having trouble making changes. Your care team may have tools to help you. A pulmonary rehabilitation program may also help. They not only teach you what habits are healthy but also show you how to start making these changes.

Medicine and treatments can have side effects. Let your care team know about any problems you are having. The team may be able to adjust your treatment or make changes to help you cope.

Identify Problems

No one knows your body like you do. You will be the first to know when something is wrong. Start treatment outlined in your care plan as soon as you feel symptoms get worse.

Let your care team know about symptoms that get worse or do not get better with treatment such as:

  • Shortness of breath or more coughing, with or without blood
  • Problems doing day-to-day tasks
  • More or thicker mucus
  • Ankle swelling
  • Problems sleeping
  • Lack of hunger
  • Your medicine is not helping you
  • Confusion or tiredness
  • Chest pain

Practice Self-Care

A chronic disease can cause a lot of changes in your life. Change can be stressful. You may also withdraw from social events. Both impact your physical and mental health. Share your concerns with your care team. Let them know if anxiety or depression is making day-to-day tasks hard or if you have problems with relationships.

Be on the lookout for any of the following:

  • Lasting feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Staying away from friends or family
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble sleeping, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide with or without suicide attempts

Know that these are not normal. Treatment can help ease these symptoms. There are also tools that may help you cope better.

Stay in Touch with Your Care Team

Open and honest talk with your care team can improve your overall wellness. The earlier you tell your care team about any problems you are having, the better it will be.

This content was brought to you by Santovia Patient Education using EBSCO’s Patient Education Research Library

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