A COPD exacerbation can be defined as an increase in symptoms above the day-to-day variability that a patient normally experiences, that requires a change in therapy. In simple terms, it is a COPD “flare-up.” Frequent exacerbations are associated with poorer health, disease progression, and increased mortality; in short, they negatively affect overall quality of life.
The first step in treating exacerbations is to figure out what’s triggering them; it could be viruses, bacteria, cold air exposure, poor air quality, dust in the home, wildfires, or other causes. The next step is treating exacerbations with medications, which can be used to treat the trigger or the symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation also are important components of treatment to slow the progress of exacerbations.
This short video, from the University of Washington, explains the strategies used to target COPD exacerbations.