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Talking to Your Health Care Professional About COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

As with any chronic condition, communication between you and your health care team is important. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be managed if you get an early diagnosis and proper treatment, such as a maintenance inhaled therapy. Here are some tips to help you talk with your health care professionals:

  1. Track your symptoms, including when they occur and what you were doing when they occurred. Share them with your doctor.
  2. Be honest with your health care professionals. If you're having trouble stopping smoking, can't get your husband to quit smoking around you, can't afford your medications, are having side effects from the medication or don't want to go to pulmonary rehabilitation, tell them. Together, you may be able to identify options and solutions.
  3. Get educated on your medications. Find out:
    • why they were prescribed
    • potential side effects
    • why you need to take them every day, even if you're feeling better
    • how to use your device
    • how you'll know they are working
    • what to do next if your medicines don't work
  4. Ask your health care professional to help you learn how to use your inhaler correctly.
  5. If you have a lot of questions about your disease, call for a special appointment and ask for the time you need.
  6. Learn what your FEV and FVC are so you can track your lung function and disease progression. FEV—forced expiratory volume—is how much air you can exhale in one second. FVC—forced vital capacity—is how much air you can exhale after taking in a deep breath. Both are measured with a spirometry test, and your health care professional reads the results to assess how well your lungs are working.
  7. Share interesting information you find online with your health care professionals, but don't overwhelm them with reams of paper or dozens of links.
  8. Ask your health care professional if you might benefit from a clinical trial.
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