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Can a Person With COPD Get Better?

Ask a Doctor

I have a mild case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. I quit smoking cigarettes immediately after I was diagnosed, but I want to do everything I can to get healthy. Can you be cured of COPD?

Doctor’s Response

COPD cannot be cured, but in a majority of people it can be prevented. To prevent COPD:

  • Do not smoke, and, if you do smoke, quit.
  • Eliminate exposure to smoke by not allowing people to smoke in the home and by sitting in designated nonsmoking areas when out in public. People should also avoid wood smoke and cooking smoke.
  • Limit air pollutants in the home.
  • Try to avoid contracting respiratory infections such as colds and the flu. Individuals should wash the hands frequently because viruses can be passed through hand-to-mouth contact.
  • Fight for clean air to prevent those cases of COPD due to air pollution.

For people with mild COPD, the prognosis is favorable. More severe cases of COPD suggest a worse prognosis. Of those people who are admitted to the ICU with an acute exacerbation, the death rate is 24%. This rate doubles for people aged 65 years or older. The predictors of death due to COPD are as follows:

  • Aging
  • Continued smoking
  • Accelerated decline in FEV1
  • Moderate-to-severe airflow obstruction
  • Poor bronchodilator response
  • Severe hypoxemia
  • Presence of hypercapnia (increased arterial carbon dioxide tension)
  • Development of cor pulmonale (right-sided heart failure)
  • Overall poor functional capacity

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References


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Cahill K, Stead LF, Lancaster T (2012). "Nicotine receptor partial agonists for smoking cessation". Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4: CD006103.

Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. "Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease." Updated 2014.
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Hopkinson, N, Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction: indications, effects and prospects. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine March 2007; vol 13; issue 2 ;125-130.

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Rushton, L. "Occupational causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
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