At present, some 750,000 Canadians are known to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This number is believed to represent the tip of the iceberg, as COPD is often only diagnosed in the advanced stage. Respiratory symptoms or a previous smoking history are common among older adults yet they seldom trigger further assessment for COPD. Objective demonstration of airflow obstruction by spirometry is a simple procedure, even in older adults, and is the gold standard for diagnosis of COPD. Early intervention with routine nonpharmacological management includes partnering with the patient and family, providing education, smoking cessation, vaccination, collaborative self-management, and advice on exercise and pulmonary rehabilitation. Anticholinergic inhalers remain the gold standard for optimal bronchodilation and dyspnea relief in COPD, and new long-acting agents have underpinned new treatment algorithms, improving quality of life and exercise capacity as well as reducing exacerbations. For those with advanced disease, recent trials have reported further benefits with the addition of combination inhalers (inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting B2-agonist) to core anticholinergic treatment. Physicians and patients can expect a promising future for COPD treatment as significant advances in management and improved outcomes in COPD are now being made.
Key words: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, older adults, spirometry, diagnosis, management.