The Treatment of COPD - Dr. Don Sin, St. Paul's Hospital

Dr. Don Sin, MD, FRCP, MPH, Respirologist, discusses treatment options for COPD.

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Dr. Don Sin, MD, FRCP, MPH, Respirologist, discusses treatment options for COPD.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Donald Sin, MD, FRCP, MPH

Duration: 4 minutes, 1 second

The most common way COPD is treated is through inhalers. Inhalers can contain drugs that open up your airways. We call them bronchodilators, and there are about 10-15 of them in the market, and your doctor can choose the one that works best for you.

Another class of inhalers contain steroids or corticosteroids. They reduce inflammation and phlegm and mucus in the airways, and they too may be effective for you, depending on whether you have mucus in the airways. And that too can be decided by your physician.

There are other forms of therapies that should also be considered, including yearly vaccinations for influenza, and a pneumonia vaccination every five to ten years. If you’re a smoker, obviously smoking cessation. If you’re surrounded by heavy air pollution, both indoor or outdoor, that should be mitigated; and there are ways to mitigate exposure to those things. And in more advanced cases of COPD, some advanced therapies may be required, including oxygen therapy, or exercise therapy, or even surgery. That can be reserved for those with very advanced disease.

Overall the inhalers are very effective in controlling symptoms of COPD and halting its progression. Overall the prognosis of COPD patients is excellent. People can live with COPD for decades now with proper therapy. The trick here is to get an early diagnosis before the COPD becomes so advanced that you may require surgery, or 24-hour oxygen therapy. So it’s very important to get a prompt diagnosis when you think that you may have the disease, and get started on these therapies early on in the course of your disease.

One of the important drivers of COPD is oxygen or inflammatory stress in the lungs. We can modify that by having a good and proper diet. Lots of greens, lots of vegetables, three square meals a day. And keeping your body weight within the normal range, which is a body mass index, between 22 and about 26. If you start losing weight, that’s a sign that your COPD may be acting up, and you need to see your doctor quite promptly. Obesity is also bad for COPD, because you’re carrying an excess amount of weight on your lungs.

The other thing, I think, to keep in mind, is that regular exercise is a key component of COPD management. And this doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it does involve daily walking—8,000 to about 10,000 steps a day, preferably outdoors. But when the weather gets poor, indoor walking is a very effective way of controlling your COPD.

If you have questions about whether you’re eating properly, please see a dietitian and get some advice about what you should and should not be eating on a regular basis. If you have questions about whether you’re doing the right type of exercise, see an exercise specialist or an exercise program near where you live. If you have any questions about the diagnosis, treatment or prognosis of COPD, please see your doctor.

Presenter: Dr. Don Sin, Respirologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Respirologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.