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COPD can't be cured, but it can be treated. Proper COPD treatment includes these steps:

For certain people with COPD, doctors may also recommend surgery.

Quit smoking to slow down your COPD symptoms

It helps to quit smoking, even if you already have COPD. In fact, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to feel better. COPD gets worse over time if you continue to smoke or breathe dirty air. The damage doesn't stop until you stop smoking and stop breathing dirty air. By quitting smoking now, you can't undo the damage that's already done, but you can protect your lungs from any more damage.

It's also very important to stay away from second-hand smoke and air pollution.

Join a pulmonary rehabilitation program

Pulmonary rehabilitation (also called respiratory rehabilitation or just rehab) is a specialized exercise program for people with long-term lung diseases like COPD. It teaches you how to exercise, how to get the most from your breath, and how to manage your disease. There is strong evidence that pulmonary rehabilitation is very helpful for COPD patients.

Read more about pulmonary rehabilitation and find a program near you.

Surgery for COPD

In some rare cases, doctor may also recommend surgery.

The Canadian Thoracic Society's COPD Guidelines (guidelines doctors follow to give you the best treatment) say that surgery:

  • Is only recommended for certain people with certain kinds of COPD
  • Has serious risks
  • Should only be considered if the usual COPD treatments (quitting smoking, medications, healthy lifestyle) don't relieve symptoms
Lung volume reduction surgery (LRSV)

In lung volume reduction surgery, surgeons remove 20-35% of a person's lungs, usually the top portions that have the most damage. The idea is that removing the parts of your lungs that aren't working will allow air to pass more freely in the parts of your lungs that are working. The hope is that when the air flows more freely, you have fewer COPD symptoms and find it easier to breathe. LRSV is controversial: it can be risky, and there is not a lot of evidence on whether it is successful.

Lung transplant

Most of the time, lung transplants are recommended only for people with very advanced COPD, who don't smoke, and who won't live long unless they have the transplant. If a person qualifies for a lung transplant, they are put on a wait list for a donation. The wait may be long. Surgeons take out one of the lungs and replace it with a healthy lung. The surgery can be risky. People who get transplants must take anti-rejection medicines (immunosuppressants) for the rest of their lives.

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