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COPD Basics: How It’s Diagnosed and Treated

As strange as it may seem, there are actually times when receiving a definitive diagnosis for debilitating symptoms is a relief. Finally, there’s a name for the condition and a plan to treat it! This is certainly true for those diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If your senior loved one has been battling chronic coughing, wheezing, and fatigue, a diagnosis of COPD just might be the first step in improving his or her quality of life.

To diagnose COPD, the doctor will likely:

  • Assess the individual’s health and environment, to include smoking, exposure to pollutants, symptoms, and family health history

  • Perform tests such as spirometry (breathing into a machine to check lung functioning), an x-ray of the lungs and some blood work

  • Create a customized treatment plan

COPD symptoms vary from person to person, which explains why treatment plans may be different for your senior loved one versus plans for others with the disease. Here are some of the treatment methods your senior loved one’s doctor may want him or her to try to best manage the disease:

  • Medications, to include any of the following:

  • Bronchodilators taken through an inhaler to help open airways, available in both short-term and long-term formulations, to work immediately as needed or to be taken ongoing for maintenance

  • Steroids and corticosteroids work to reduce inflammation, swelling and mucous production

  • Antibiotics to address any bacterial infections in the lungs

  • Immunizations to protect against flu and pneumonia, as those with COPD are at a greater risk for complications from these illnesses

  • Pulmonary therapy works to strengthen the lungs through guided exercise and nutrition.

  • Oxygen therapy, available through liquid or gas oxygen tanks or oxygen concentrators that utilize the oxygen already in the environment.

  • Lung surgery may be an option if symptoms are extremely severe.

  • Palliative care focuses treatment on improving quality of life, and is available to anyone diagnosed with COPD, regardless of the prognosis or stage of the disease.

  • Clinical trials help researchers determine the success of new, experimental treatments, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Talk with your senior loved one’s physician to see if clinical trials are an option, and check the American Lung Association’s clinical trial search page for opportunities near you.

Regardless of the doctor’s recommended treatment plan to help your senior loved one better manage his or her COPD, if the loved one is no longer able to easily take care of themselves and their chores around the house, AAging Better is always available to assist with any of the activities of daily living needed to enhance quality of life. Contact us at 866.464.2344 to learn more.

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