All lung diseases are not created equal. Millions of people in the United States are struggling with or know someone who is struggling with a lung disease. The good news is that in the last few years, there have been new and successful treatments and medications which have been helping patients live longer and achieve a better quality of life.
Asthma is caused when the bronchi in the lungs spasm, making it hard to breathe. It’s typically accompanied by persistent wheezing and shortness of breath.
Causes: Allergies and pollution are the main causes of asthma.
What’s New: Those patients who experience asthma attacks even after using an asthma inhaler can benefit from a new treatment option called Bronchial Thermoplasty. It’s done on an outpatient basis and is incision free. Patients lungs are treated with gentle heat that reduces the smooth muscles in the lungs, making it easier to breathe. Researchers are also studying another drug-free option labeled Continued Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for treating asthma.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive disease defined by an inability to exhale naturally. Patients normally have to be taught how to breathe again.
Causes: Smoking is the leading cause of this lung disease.
What’s New: Recently, there have been positive results with a new drug titled LAMA/LABA that only has to be taken once a day to treat the condition. LAMA/LABA is a combo drug that uses two investigational bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are medications that relax the smooth muscle that line the lungs, making breathing easier. Patients taking this drug have shown statistically notable improvements. Doctors are also using Pulmonary Rehabilitation, which combines exercise and nutrition, breathing strategies, and group therapy to greatly improve the quality of patients’ lives.
Emphysema results from damage to the fragile connections between alveoli. Emphysema is an airway disease.
Causes: Smoking is the leading cause of this lung disease as well.
What’s New: While the general consensus is there is no cure for this disease, there is some good news. German researchers have a new drug, nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), that aids in lung regeneration. So far, it has been successful in studies with mice. Researchers are hopeful they can find a way to apply it to humans.
Lung cancer is a disease that has many forms and that can develop in any part of the lungs. Treatment depends on several factors: location, type, and how far or much it has spread.
Causes: Smoking, asbestos, and passive smoking or secondhand smoke.
What’s New: Treatment for this particular lung disease has come a long way. Traditional treatments involving radiation and chemotherapy are still used, but in a different way. Doctors no longer focus on just treating the lung disease. Doctors are now patient focused. To help the patient deal with the negative effects of traditional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, doctors have begun incorporating nutrition therapy and interventional radiology.
Many patients complain of nausea and other issue dealing with digestion when undergoing treatment. Nutritional therapy helps by using a dietitian who works with the doctor and patient to create a meal plan geared towards improving digestive health. Interventional radiology uses minimally invasive procedures in treating cancer. Biopsies and tumors are treated in a way that causes fewer side effects than the more traditional surgeries. Patients are also offered bone and joint pain management. This involves receiving injections in the bones and joints to relieve pain.
Treatments in a Nutshell
Researchers, doctors, and patient advocates have finally figured out what patients already knew: treat the patient and you can conquer the disease. Doctors and researchers are working closer together to find better drug treatments, more effective and less invasive surgical procedures, and even drug free treatments. Doctors and other clinicians are collaborating to reduce patients’ side effects, help them maintain energy levels, and reduce pain during treatments. They are treating patients by empowering them.
Ways to Manage Lung Disease
Stay informed: Learn more about your disease and the options available to you.
Practice breathing techniques: Ask your doctor what techniques are recommended for you.
Exercise regularly: Your doctor can help you create a plan or routine.
Eat well: Work with your dietitian and learn what foods are beneficial and which foods you should avoid.
Quit smoking: Ask your doctor about your options.
Join a support group: In this tech savvy world, a multitude of support groups are now available online and in person, so there’s no reason not to join one. Social media can connect you with an online support community in just a few clicks of a mouse.
Ask for help: Your doctor can provide you with a list of organizations that bring caregivers, volunteers, and patients together. There are a number of volunteers who are eager to help financially and spiritually.