Treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is not a reversible condition, but treatment can slow its progression (smoking cessation being the most important). Treatments available to help manage the disease include the following:

  • Medical treatment
  • Behavioral treatment
  • Surgical treatment
  • Other treatments

Smoking Cessation and COPD

It is critically important that COPD patients quit smoking. Once a patient has quit, the rate of decline of lung function slows considerably. Cigarette smoking is involved in many other serious health problems, including atherosclerosis, malignancies (especially lung cancer), peptic ulcer disease, ovarian failure, osteoporosis, histiocytosis-X (disease caused by disruption of the immune system), and other health problems (e.g., premature aging of the skin). Many hospitals offer smoking cessation classes that can be helpful.

It is very difficult to quit smoking cigarettes because they are psychologically and physically addictive, but it can be done. Withdrawal symptoms are caused by withdrawal from nicotine and include depression, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, and weight gain. Some patients gain 10–20 pounds after they stop smoking. An antidepressant (buproprion, Wellbutrin®) may help reduce withdrawal symptoms and can be used alone or with nicotine replacement therapy.

There are several nicotine replacement systems that can help smokers withdraw from nicotine, including nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, and nasal sprays. Nicotine gum was the first nicotine replacement therapy available. Each piece of gum contains 2 mg of nicotine. It is chewed slowly to reduce symptoms of withdrawal. The major disadvantages of nicotine gum are that it takes training to use properly and the peak nicotine blood levels only approximate 40% of what one would obtain by smoking a cigarette. The gum decreases, but does not eliminate, physical withdrawal symptoms.

See details on quitting smoking.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 May 2000

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015