Steroid treatments may help if you have more severe COPD. They are usually used if bronchodilators are not effective and are available as inhalers or as tablets.
Steroid tablets may be prescribed as a short course for one or two weeks if you have a bad flare-up. They work best if you take them as soon as possible after the flare-up starts.
Mucolytics break down the phlegm in your lungs, making it easier for you to cough it up. Your doctor may prescribe you a mucolytic if you have a chronic, phlegm-producing cough. Mucolytics may also reduce the number of flare-ups you have although more research is needed to prove this.
If your COPD becomes severe, you may develop low blood oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy can help relieve this. You inhale the oxygen through a mask or small tubes (nasal cannulae) that sit beneath your nostrils.
The oxygen is provided in large tanks for home use, or in smaller, portable versions for outside the home. An oxygen concentrator - a machine that uses air to produce a supply of oxygen-rich gas - is an alternative to tanks.
It is particularly important to give up smoking if you have oxygen therapy for COPD because there is a serious fire risk. Oxygen therapy can either be short-term, long-term - where you use it all the time at home - or ambulatory - when its used for exercise or when outdoors.
If you have severe COPD, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove diseased areas of your lung. This can help your lungs to function more effectively. However, this is only carried out in certain circumstances - ask your doctor for more advice. Rarely, having a lung transplant may be an option. This is usually only if your life expectancy is under two years.