Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is becoming an increasingly important problem in Australia as our population ages. Its treatment is a good example of disease management as all the stages of the condition and its complications need to be addressed.
- Think of COPD in all adults with cough or who are breathless with exertion – especially if they have been smokers.
- People in middle age who notice breathing difficulties may incorrectly attribute them to advancing years or lack of fitness.
- COPD is often a systemic disorder, with many complications and concurrent morbidities.
- Early diagnosis can be achieved with spirometry, and early intervention with risk factor reduction can achieve significant long term benefits.
- Smoking is the main risk factor. Doctors should aim to identify all smokers in their practice and initiate stop smoking programs as soon as possible.
- Bronchodilators can relieve symptoms; metered dose devices are preferred.
- Inhaled corticosteroids do not modify the disease. Systemic corticosteroids shorten the recovery from exacerbations.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation is highly effective at improving wellbeing and functionality at all stages of the disorder.