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Effective Treatments for COPD

Woman with COPD using inhalerChronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a disease for which there is no cure.  However, there are many treatments available to slow the progression of the disease and to cure or mask the symptoms of this lung disease.  Options, potency and strengths of treatment depend upon each individual case.  There are some steps of treatment that you could take on your own while others require medicinal or advanced therapeutic measures.

(If you have been diagnosed with COPD, you may qualify for our COPD clinical trial in Birmingham, AL.)

Quit smoking (COPD Prevention)

The most important step is to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.  COPD patients who quit eventually regain lung function and those who continue smoking suffer the consequences of declining lung health.  Many regain lung function in as little as a year.  Smoking tobacco cigarettes while attempting to treat COPD may negate the prescribed drugs altogether.


Bronchodilators relax the smooth muscle of the small airways in the lungs and reverse the constriction caused by COPD.  In doing this, bronchodilators expand the airways and make it easier to breathe.  Airway constriction can cause difficulty wih breathing, choking, gasping for air, a lack of oxygen supply to the lungs and throughout the body, and shortness of breath.  Some bronchodilators offer rapid short-term relief (short acting) and others require more time to dilate the airways but last longer once they begin working (long acting).

Short acting beta 2 agonists/short acting bronchodilators

  • Prescribed for use when needed and in the case of an emerency
  • Take about fifteen minutes to begin working
  • Examples include: the combination drug Combivent (albuterol and ipatropium), as well as the independent drugs Atrovent (ipatropium), Proair, Proventil HFA, Xopenex (levalbuterol), Maxair (pirbuterol) and Ventolin HFA (albuterol)

Beta 2 Agonists/long acting bronchodilators

  • Used on a normal basis as opposed to when needed
  • Examples include: Foradil (formoterol), Serevent (salmeterol) and Spiriva (tiotropium)

Combination of long acting bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Combine the function of bronchodilation (to relax the smooth muscle of the airways) and the function of anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drugs (to decrease the inflammation of the airways)
  • Examples include: Advair (Serevent, the long acting bronchodilator and Flovent, the anti-inflammatory) and Symbicort (Foradil, the long acting bronchodilator and Pulmicort, the anti-inflammatory)


  • To be taken as needed and in the case of an emergency
  • Relax the smooth muscles of the larger airways of the lungs
  • Examples of anticolinergics include: Oxivent (oxitropium bromide) and atrovent (ipratropium bromide)

Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drugs

  • Reduce the inflammation of the airways in the lungs
  • Do not offer immediate relief in an emergency, and are prescribed to take on an ongoing basis

Inhaled corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Inhaled via inhaler or nebulizer
  • The corticosteroid medication is in liquid form and is breathed in when receiving nebulizer or inhaler treatment
  • Examples include the following: Pulmicort (budesonide), Asmanex (mometasone), QVAR (beclomethasone) and Flovent (fluticasone).

Corticosteroid pills or syrups

  • These are to be taken orally

Inhalation Treatment

  • Drugs are inhaled directly into the diseased lungs so that treatment can begin taking place more quickly
  • The use of inhalation devices should be practiced as follows: first exhale away from the device, then put mouthpiece into mouth and quickly inhale.


  • Air compressor machine releases a mist of medication
  • The mist is easy to inhale and delivers drugs directly into lungs
  • Adults use a mouthpiece for inhalation; children wear a facemask for inhalation

Metered-dose inhalers

  • Inhaler releases a mist of medication through a pressurized canister
  • The mist is easy to inhale and delivers drugs directly into lungs

Dry powder inhalers

  • Inhaler delivers medication doses in powder form
  • Breathing must be done quickly to ensure inhalation of the powdered medication.

Supplemental oxygen/oxygen therapy

  • COPD patients suffering from hypoxemia (low levels of blood oxygen) can carry around supplemental oxygen tanks
  • Oxygen is delivered trough nasal prongs or oxygen therapy mask

Each patient has unique symptoms, medical history and overall case of COPD (remember that COPD is composed of more than one condition, like emphysema and chronic bronchitis).  Therefore, each patient will have their own treatment plan that is appropriate for them.  Speak with your doctor today to design the best-suited treatment plan for you.