Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a respiratory condition characterized by the thickening and scarring (also called fibrosis) of the lungs. Because of thickening lung tissue, it is difficult for oxygen to pass through the air sacs and into the bloodstream.

The most common symptoms of PF include shortness of breath and coughing. In advanced stages of the condition, patients may experience breathing alterations, weight loss, fatigue, aching muscles and joints, and clubbing (widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers and toes).

There is currently no cure for PF and symptoms may get worse over time. However, improving your lifestyle is critical to improving your quality of life as well as help manage the condition. There are a number of things patients can do to maintain or improve their quality of life while living with PF.

Exercise

The most common symptom in PF is shortness of breath. Daily activities such as bathing and getting dressed may become challenging. Regular exercise can strengthen your muscles, which makes them more resistant to fatigue. You may try moderate exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike. As the condition progresses, wheelchairs or motorized scooters may help you stay busy in your daily life.

In certain situations, your doctor may tell you to enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. These programs are designed to provide information about the condition and how to manage it, such as how much oxygen you may need at rest and during exercise, and how to exercise. They also provide a counseling and support service. Organizations such as the American Lung Association may help you find pulmonary rehabilitation programs in your community.

Diet

A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and beans. It should be low in salt and added sugar. Try eating smaller and more frequent meals to avoid feeling full, which may make it harder to breathe. You may ask your doctor or dietician for a healthy diet plan. You can also read more information about a healthy diet on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) website on “Your Guide to Lowering your Blood Pressure with DASH” or go to ChooseMyPlate.gov website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rest

Sleeping for at least eight hours a day can boost your immune system and sense of well-being. It can also increase your energy levels.

Smoking 

If you smoke, you should quit and try to avoid contact with secondhand smoke. Ask your doctor for help. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have programs and resources to help you quit smoking. For more information you can visit the smokefree.gov website. Also, the American Lung Association has programs to help quit smoking.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can help you manage anxiety that often accompanies shortness of breath. Examples include progressive relaxation, guided imagery, and deep breathing exercises characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being. Regularly practicing meditation, yoga or tai chi can also promote relaxation. These techniques may also help you avoid excessive oxygen intake caused by tension or overworked muscles.

Support groups 

Speaking with others who have PF by sharing stories, feelings, and experiences can help you not feel so alone. It can also be therapeutic because as you find support from others, you too may have the opportunity to help others. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a list of support groups that you can join. The American Lung Association has the Better Breathers Clubs around the U.S. where family members and caregivers can also join.

Healthcare and a positive attitude

Doctors, nurses, other healthcare team members, along with your community are all part of your care team and can help you manage your symptoms. It is important for you to take an active role in your own health because it leads to better results in the long run. One way is to take notes and ask questions during your appointments with your healthcare provider. A positive attitude can help you, your family, and your friends better deal with your condition.

Finally, avoid situations that make your symptoms worse such as traveling by air or living at high altitudes where the amount of oxygen in the air is low.

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.