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Understanding Your COPD Medications

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This information was reviewed and approved by Kristen E. Holm, PhD, MPH (3/1/2019).

You may be prescribed several different medications for your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is important to have an accurate understanding of why each medication is being prescribed. It is also important to have realistic expectations for each medication. Some medications may be prescribed to treat symptoms that you experience due to COPD, such as shortness of breath. Other medications may be prescribed in order to prevent exacerbations or flare-ups. These medications may be helping you even if you do not notice an immediate benefit, such as fewer symptoms.  

Changes you may notice when the medication is helping include:

  • You can do the same activities earlier and with less shortness of breath.

  • You are able to walk more and be more active.

  • You can do more chores and activities around the house.

  • You don’t tire as easily.

  • You feel less short of breath.

Watch for these changes as your medications are adjusted. When you visit your health care provider, discuss any changes with him or her.

Your COPD medications can have side effects. If you notice potential side effects from the medications, let your doctor know what is happening so that he or she can either change the medication or find another way to relieve the problem. If you do have side effects, write them down and take them with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Write down:

  • Any questions you have about why your medications are being prescribed and whether you should expect to notice an immediate benefit from each of your medications

  • Any problems — with your feelings, your thinking or your body — that you feel may be due to your illness or medications

Bring your list of questions and/or problems to you doctor’s visits and discuss them with your doctor.


Step 6: Addressing Concerns About Using Oxygen

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