Q: How to treat advanced COPD?
A: Advancing COPD can have a serious impact on a person’s daily activities. Increased shortness of breath is experienced during exercise, even when it’s moderate. Flare-ups or exacerbations are more frequent, as is coughing and mucus production. As a result, the advanced COPD treatments emphasize on improving breathing.
Specific non-pharmacological strategies assume an important role in management of advance COPD. Oxygen therapy is one of the principal non-pharmacological treatments for patients with very severe (stage 4) COPD. It can improve survival.
Pulmonary rehabilitation helps by increasing exercise tolerance and providing a better quality of life, reducing anxiety and depression. Most experts believe that pulmonary rehabilitation should be considered earlier in the disease process than it has been traditionally thought of, not waiting until the patient has severe disease.
Hypoxemia caused by difficulty breathing in advanced stages of COPD leads to reactive pulmonary hypertension, increased airflow resistance and expanded red cell mass, reduced tissue oxygen transport and combinations. Oxygen therapy will increase the oxygen level in the blood, thus improving brain function.
For severe lung disease like COPD, doing surgery is functional but dangerous. Lung transplantation is available for only a select few patients. Although the quality of life is improved through lung transplantation, rejection through bronchiolitis obliterans is a major limiting factor. In fact, the length of life in advanced COPD stages is not greatly increased with lung transplantation as compared with pulmonary rehabilitation therapy alone.
There are many medical treatments available for advanced COPD. Pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery like lung transplantation are the three most common methods. For end-stage COPD patients, there is no cure. What medical treatment can achieve is just to improve life quality.