Getting the most from your COPD treatment

When it comes to managing your COPD, are you doing all you can?

Try these 5 tips to get the most from your COPD treatment:

1. Know your COPD treatments and how to use them.

Do you sometimes wonder what all of your COPD treatments are for and when to use them? Are you unsure if you are using your medications (especially inhalers) the right way? Do you occasionally miss doses of medication?

If so, it's time to talk to your doctor about your COPD treatment. Get your personalized Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for your visit.

2. Keep track of your symptoms and flare-ups.

COPD treatment is based on how severe your COPD is (mild, moderate or severe) and how many flare-ups (COPD exacerbations) you have. Keep track of your COPD symptoms and flare-ups, and discuss this information with your doctor at each appointment. This can help you and your doctor make sure you are on the most appropriate COPD treatment for your level of severity.

If your COPD symptoms are bothering you or if you have frequent flare ups, it is important to speak to your doctor as best treatment is highly individualized. Get your personalized Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for your doctor's visit.

3. Have a COPD Action PlanTM*, and keep it up to date.

A COPD Action PlanTM* is a written plan that helps you tell if you are having a COPD flare-up (also called a COPD exacerbation) and know how to take care of yourself when this happens.

If you don't have a COPD Action PlanTM* download and print the PDF and ask your doctor to help you fill it in.

If you do have a COPD Action PlanTM*, visit your doctor twice a year to keep it up to date.

4. Take the COPD Assessment TestTM regularly to stay on track.

The COPD Assessment TestTM (CAT) is a short quiz that measures the impact of COPD on your daily life. It's a great way to measure the changing impact of COPD over time and to alert you and your doctor when your COPD may be getting worse. Take the CAT regularly, and share your results with your doctor to make sure you are on an appropriate treatment for your COPD.

5. See your doctor regularly, and speak up about your questions and concerns.

COPD is a chronic disease that can get worse over time. To make sure your COPD treatment is optimal for your COPD symptoms and severity, visit your doctor regularly. Ask your doctor how often you should have a check-up. Before each doctor's visit, get your personalized Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for the visit.

*Provided by © 2013 Canadian Thoracic Society

COPD Facts and Myths

Find out whether some common beliefs about COPD are facts or myths.

Fact or myth? COPD is usually diagnosed while it's still mild.

This is a myth. COPD is a chronic disease that takes time to develop. Many people with COPD don't even know they have it. By the time people recognize the symptoms and get help, the disease has often become quite advanced. Most people already have moderate or severe COPD by the time they are diagnosed.

It's important to catch COPD early when it is easier to treat and there is less lung damage. If you have been noticing COPD symptoms such as a persistent cough, coughing up phlegm (pronounced "flem"), or shortness of breath, use the COPD Screening Tool and bring the results to your doctor.

Fact or myth? COPD can be cured by moving to a dry climate.

It's a myth that COPD can be cured by moving to a dry climate.

COPD is a chronic condition. That means it's with you every day.

Although a drier climate may reduce some of your triggers for flare-ups, it may also introduce new ones.

There's no cure for COPD. But you can manage your COPD by following the treatment plan and lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor.

Take the COPD Assessment TestTM to see how your COPD symptoms are impacting your life, and bring the results to your doctor so you can discuss optimal COPD treatment. It's especially important to do this if you have had a recent flare-up (COPD exacerbation).

Fact or myth? Using my COPD maintenance medication every day will eventually cause it to become less effective and I should not use it regularly.

You should still continue to use your COPD maintenance medications on a regular basis, even if you're feeling better.

COPD is a chronic condition with symptoms that can change and get worse over time. It is important to keep using your medication as directed by your doctor even if you are feeling better.

If you feel your COPD is getting worse, follow your COPD Action PlanTM (if you don't have an action plan, download and print the PDF, and ask your doctor to help you fill it in. Your COPD treatment may need to be adjusted.

An important part of managing your COPD is knowing how to use your medication correctly. Regularly taking a few minutes to review the proper inhalation technique with your doctor or pharmacist can help you get the most from your treatment.

COPD Action PlanTM is a trademark of the Canadian Thoracic Society.

Coping with COPD

Managing COPD can feel overwhelming at times. These tips can make it easier for you to cope:

  1. Stay Connected
    Join a COPD support group. Support groups can be found online as well as in your local community. People who are successfully coping with COPD are eager to listen to your concerns and share useful health and lifestyle tips.

  2. Exercise
    COPD can trap you in a downward spiral of inactivity. It starts by COPD making you feel breathless and tired. Being tired leads to inactivity that can weaken your heart and lungs... causing you to feel even more breathless.

    Regular exercise interrupts this cycle. You don't need to start with anything difficult or strenuous. Your exercise can begin as simply as walking outside for a breath of fresh air.

    Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

  3. Reach a healthy weight
    Ask your doctor what your healthy weight range should be. The extremes of underweight or overweight are especially unhealthy for people with COPD.

    If you are overweight:

    Excess fat around the stomach can press on your diaphragm, making breathing more difficult. Consider reducing excess weight by avoiding high-calorie food and drinks. A certified dietician can help you choose healthy, nourishing foods. Getting regular physical activity will also help.

    If you are underweight:

    Not getting enough calories (food energy) leads to tiredness and shortness of breath. If you need more energy, try ready-to-eat high calorie foods combined with nutritional supplements. You can also try eating frequent small meals instead of 3 large meals each day. Or ask your doctor to refer you to a certified dietitian.

  4. See your doctor regularly
    COPD is a chronic condition that can get worse over time. Regular visits to the doctor can help you make sure you are on an appropriate treatment plan for your COPD. To get the most from your visit:

    • Take the COPD Assessment TestTM, print your results, and bring them to your visit.
    • Use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help organize any questions or concerns you may have about your COPD.
    • Bring a copy of your COPD Action Plan to each visit. You should update your action plan at least twice a year. If you don't have a COPD Action Plan, download and print the PDF, and ask your doctor to help you fill it in.
    • At each visit, ask your doctor if anything has changed with your COPD and whether your treatment needs to be adjusted.

COPD Action PlanTM is a trademark of the Canadian Thoracic Society.