Latest and Greatest COPD Treatment Options
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is a disease that makes it difficult to breathe, and gets worse over time. COPD can cause deep coughing, producing a large amount of mucus, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. The leading cause of COPD is cigarette smoking or long term exposure to lung irritants.
In addition to the traditional inhaled medicines that are used to help open inflamed lung airways in people who suffer from COPD, new treatments are helping to lower the numbers of severe flareups COPD patients experience.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with COPD, it’s important to educate yourself in the various ways that the disorder progresses if you’re to effectively combat it. Being diagnosed with COPD can seem overwhelming and unfair, but there is plenty of information available online and various doctors who specialize in its treatment. While we aren’t doctors, we still recommend you seek professional help if you’ve displayed any common signs or symptoms of COPD. Below you’ll find information on the four stages of COPDs development:
- Stage 1
The early signs of COPD can occasionally go unnoticed or undiagnosed due to their similarities to symptoms of other, less serious conditions. If you’ve experienced a bout of allergies or a cold recently, you may exhibit symptoms that they share with COPD. Similarly, if you’re a long-term smoker or someone who would be considered elderly, you may have already written off your COPD symptoms as a general decline in health.
Typical symptoms of stage 1 COPD are minor restriction to airflow, increase in mucus production, recurring cough, wheezing, and fatigue.
- Stage 2
This is the point where most people who’ve developed COPD will being to take notice of their symptoms and seek professional help. It is both easier to diagnose in this stage, but also more severe than the previous stage.
At this stage, common symptoms would be breathlessness caused by exertion, restricted airflow, worsening cough, and phlegm production.
- Stage 3
At this stage, COPD symptoms will be too difficult to simply ignore and medical assistance will likely be necessary. Doctors will likely recommend avoiding all pollutants and offer supplemental oxygen as a long-term treatment, due to the severity of the symptoms.
Symptoms will include all those previously mentioned as well as severe difficulty with physical activities, headaches, edema, and trouble maintaining a reasonable weight.
- Stage 4
At stage 4, circumstances have become so dire that sufferers are effectively living with 30% of normal lung function or less. Also known as end-stage COPD, stage 4 is expectedly the most restricting of all the stages and brings its own set of exacerbated symptoms. Not only will sufferers have to cope with the restricted airways and reduced lung function, they’ll also have to deal with chest pain, heart complications, depression, drowsiness, disorientation, and confusion.
Here are some of the latest and greatest COPD treatment options:
New research has shown that a combination of complementary COPD drugs is more effective. This specific drug combines two current COPD drugs into a daily inhaler. Tiotropium allows the airways to expand, blocking the constrictive nerves. The second drug, Olodaterol, takes advantage of the open airways by activating the body’s adrenaline system, flushing open the airways. This lets the airways expand fully without tension.
This drug acts fast, working within five minutes. The latest studies have shown that the combination of these drugs produces substantially greater outcomes than to use of either drug alone.
The Lung Flute
The Lung Flute is a hand-held, flute-shaped device that helps to reduce the thin mucus in the lungs so people are able to easily get rid of it.
By blowing into the tube, a thin reed flutters as you exhale. The reed’s movement makes low-frequency sound waves that are able to travel back into the trachea and into the lungs. These sound waves pass through mucus, vibrating and loosening the secretions. This helps to break the hydrogen bonds, therefore thinning the mucous. This makes it easier for the lungs to naturally expel the mucous.
One of the largest benefits of the Lung Flute is the fact that the sound waves penetrate all the way to the bottom of the lungs, dislodging deep mucous.
This is a new drug that acts as a long lasting and selective inhibitor of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE-4). Roflumilast is an anti-inflammatory and is taken orally to treat COPD. Roflumilast works to prevent exacerbations in severe cases of COPD. This drug relaxes the airways and decreases the airway inflammation. However, it comes along with common side effects such as diarrhea and weight loss.
One proposed therapy for the treatment of COPD is found in red sage, which is a Chinese medicinal herb that is used to treat menstruation problems, blood circulation, and heart disorders. Researchers have found that a compound that is found naturally in red sage may be powerful against chronic inflammation that causes COPD by controlling the response of a specific type of white blood cell.
Neutrophils are known as the most abundant white blood cell we have in our bodies. They work to fight infections, helping to increase the immune response of other cells. While neutrophils are typically beneficial, they may also cause tissue damage in people suffering from an autoimmune disorder.
New research shown that inflammation can be reduced in COPD by driving these harm-causing white blood cells away. Red sage has been tested and has proven to be beneficial in doing this. Thousands of compounds in immune responses have been tested in genetically modified injured fish. Their neutrophils were modified to glow green, allowing researchers to see inside the fish as their bodies processed and responded to injuries. Researchers found that Tanshinone IIA positively impacted the fish by driving neutrophils away from the injury site, causing an anti-inflammatory response.
One of the problems that people with COPD face is that the anti-inflammatory drugs they use affect the entire body, not just their lungs. This may result in unpleasant side effects. Researchers, however, have found a way to target the lungs specifically by using a microscopic particle to keep the neutrophils from binding to the blood vessel walls.
A nanoparticle has been designed that is embedded with an anti-inflammatory drug which targets neutrophils. The nanoparticle binds only to a receptor that is found in activated and sticky neutrophils. This makes the cell automatically engulf whatever is bound there. Due to the fact that circulating neutrophils do not have these receptors, the system only targets the immune cells that are contributing to the inflammation in the body.
These nanoparticles have been tested in COPD in mice induced with the pulmonary inflammation that is seen in COPD. The researchers found that neutrophils detached from each another, leaving the blood vessel walls. This prevented them from contributing to the inflammation in the lungs.
The Future of COPD Treatments
New research leading to new treatment options for COPD is an important new tool for doctors in helping patients manage their COPD. The slightly different types of molecules that are now being used compared to drugs that are currently on the market gives a greater span of options to both doctors and patients. Patients may have been benefiting from an earlier drug, but want something that is easier to take or has a slightly different effect.
Having new research lead to new treatments gives an opportunity for doctors to take action in diagnosing patients as early as possible to then be able to aggressively treat the patients. COPD is a greatly disabling disease affecting many people, so it is important to use the latest studies to create treatments that will help maximize patients’ breathing.