(BPT) - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that gradually makes breathing difficult — especially as the disease progresses. If you (or someone you love) are one of the nearly 16 million people in the United States currently living with COPD, you may have misperceptions about the disease and how to manage the symptoms.

“COPD can be devastating over time — leading to inflammation, mucous, and narrowing of the airways in the lung, for those living with the condition,” said Kim Gilchrist, M.D., Medical Director, Viatris.

“There are various ways that those suffering with COPD can manage symptoms, but first, it is important to address any obstacles and roadblocks to care,” added Dr. Gilchrist. “One potential challenge is misinformation that might be keeping those with COPD from finding the right treatment for them.”

Below are three common myths around COPD treatment and tips for helping you better manage your breathing with COPD:

MYTH #1: Handheld inhalers are the only available treatment option for COPD

Handheld inhalers are helpful as quick acting “rescue inhalers” to relieve shortness of breath. Other inhalers may also be available in the form of long-acting daily maintenance therapy. Both forms are effective options for reducing symptoms and are compact, so can be taken on-the-go. Another potential treatment option is medication delivered by a nebulizer. This device discharges a fine mist that can be inhaled into the lungs either through a mouthpiece or face mask, while allowing for normal breathing. This option may be preferred for individuals who have trouble coordinating deep breathing while receiving medication in a handheld device.

MYTH #2: Using a nebulizer daily is only needed if you have a severe case of COPD

When it comes to managing COPD, it’s important for you to have an individualized care plan. Some factors that may influence the treatment you choose include family history and genetics; long-term exposure to other inhaled irritants or secondhand smoke; and having other lung diseases, such as asthma or bronchitis. When exploring options, remember that nebulized medicines can be used daily as maintenance therapy to control many COPD symptoms, regardless of severity or disease progression. However, you may still want to carry a rescue inhaler for more difficult breathing periods.

MYTH #3: You should stick with your prescribed handheld inhaler, even if your symptoms are worsening

You should always share any changes in symptoms or side effects with your doctor. Prior to an appointment, prepare any questions and what you hope to achieve at the appointment. When it comes to COPD, you should feel empowered to be your own personal advocate — helping to take control and feel more confident with the treatment journey. Whether or not an appointment is scheduled, reach out to your doctor immediately to discuss your medications or other treatment options, especially if your symptoms are worsening.

There are many types of medicines for COPD — each with its own benefits and risks. Be sure to check in with your doctor regularly to discuss your COPD and whether your current treatment is still right for you. Likewise, do not change your treatment regimen without first consulting your doctor.

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