Coping with Breathlessness in Pulmonary Fibrosis

Breathlessness can be a frightening symptom of pulmonary fibrosis (PF). It is important for PF patients to learn about ways to minimize, cope with, and manage this symptom.

In PF, scar tissue is formed inside the lung’s alveoli or air sacs, which prevents or slows down the oxygen intake in the patient’s blood.

When the oxygen required for muscle function is not enough, a distress message is sent to the brain, which triggers an increase in breathing rate and extra effort by the lungs to get more oxygen, ultimately causing breathlessness.

How to minimize breathlessness

Adjusting the type and speed of activities can help PF patients manage breathlessness. Most of the time, performing an activity a little slower than usual may be enough to control the breathing rate.

Breathlessness in PF often arrives in a wave-like pattern, and the patients soon learn how to manage their breathing. Stopping an activity as the breathing rate starts to increase may help the breathing to settle, allowing the patient to then continue the activity. Knowing when to stop and start an activity is an important asset in managing breathlessness.

A healthy diet that is low in salt, sugars, fats and grains, as well as eating small portions of food, may also improve the patients’ breathing capacity by reducing digestion time and stomach swelling. A dietitian can help create the optimal diet plan for each patient.

As the condition progresses, walking aids, wheelchairs or electric scooters may become helpful for longer trips. A walking aid with a basket may be useful if the patient is receiving oxygen treatment and needs to carry around an oxygen tube.

Oxygen therapy may be useful when PF prevents enough oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Tests like arterial blood gas and pulse oximetry are useful to determine whether a patient needs oxygen therapy.

Pulmonary rehabilitation covers various approaches to minimize breathlessness during daily activities, while increasing energy and activity levels. Activities such as physical conditioning, exercise training, and breathing exercises are all part of pulmonary rehabilitation. As every patient responds differently to PF, this kind of treatment should only be prescribed by a doctor.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.