Diagnosis & Treatment

Asthma

After an asthma diagnosis is made, you will be prescribed medications to help you manage your disease. Your doctor will work with you to prescribe an asthma action plan specific to your needs, especially if you are prone to or at risk of serious asthma episodes (or “attacks”) when breathing is seriously impaired.

Most asthma action plans will include both daily medications to maintain and control the asthma on a day-to-day basis, and “as needed” medications that relax your airways quickly in case of a flare up. Usually these medications will be in the form of an inhaler, which allows you to breath the medication in mist form deep into your lungs. There are also some medications in pill form that are used in the treatment of asthma, and your doctor can help you understand which medications you need.

Whatever combination of medicines you and your doctor agree upon, the most important thing you can do is to take your medications exactly as your healthcare provider has instructed. This may involve making a schedule, setting reminders, or using a weekly pill box.

Emphysema/COPD

The most important thing you can do to treat COPD is to quit smoking, if you are a smoker. Smoking is the single most damaging thing you can do to your lungs, and the number one cause of COPD.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe medication, usually in the form of an inhaler, which will open your airways and prevent inflammation. For severe cases of COPD, oxygen therapy may be used to help with shortness of breath.

Sleep Apnea

If your sleep apnea is mild, the best things you can do for it are to lose weight and, if you smoke, stop smoking.

If your obstructive sleep apnea is more severe, there are a number of treatment options available. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine delivers constant air pressure to your lungs through a mask that covers your nose while you sleep. This air pressure keeps your airways open to prevent snoring and breathing pauses. Similarly, an adjustable airway pressure machine delivers air pressure that varies as you inhale and exhale. It serves the same purpose: to keep your airways open while you sleep.

In extreme cases, your physician may recommend surgery to remove extra tissue from your throat or nose that is causing blockages to your airways. Sometimes the removal of tonsils or adenoids or surgical repair of damaged nasal passages is recommended.

Lung Cancer

Diagnosing lung cancer is a challenging task for you and your medical team. This is because symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer is advanced and has spread into other areas of the body. This is why it’s important to be aware of your risk factors and keep up with regular physical exams, especially if you are considered high-risk or have a family history of lung cancer.

Generally, your physician will choose tests based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical exam. These may include imaging tests, in which pictures are taken of the inside of your body to give your doctor a better view of your lungs; and tissue tests, in which the doctor studies tissue or fluid from the lung. This is normally done through a bronchoscopy.