Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that causes scar tissue deep inside a person’s lungs. Many cases are idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. Because the disease is progressive, symptoms worsen overtime. There is currently no cure, so starting treatment early is the best way to ensure a better quality of life.
Medical treatments for pulmonary fibrosis sometimes include corticosteroids, oxygen, antifibrotic drugs, proton pump inhibitors and immune suppressants. Some patients also opt to try experimental treatments.
Tips to Improve Daily Lung Function
In addition to medication and doctor-recommended treatments, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help improve daily lung function for people living with pulmonary fibrosis.
- Monitor Oxygen Levels Regularly
An at-home pulse oximeter can be used to measure your oxygen levels throughout the day. Typically, the goal is for oxygen saturation to be above 90 percent. A lack of oxygen can cause mild problems, such as headaches and shortness of breath. In severe cases, heart and brain function may suffer.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehabilitation is often a staple in the treatment of pulmonary fibrosis. This treatment involves a variety of programs that aim to reduce shortness of breath while also improving daily life.
- Keep Vaccinations Up to Date
Pulmonary fibrosis patients should be vaccinated against diseases that could cause infection and further lung damage, such as the flu, pneumonia and whooping cough. Find out what vaccines are recommended for you on the Center for Disease Control’s Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being underweight or overweight can impact your ability to breathe. A registered dietitian can help determine your dietary needs so you can maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes causes lung damage. While the habit is not healthy for anyone, it is especially harmful for patients with pulmonary fibrosis. If you smoke, quitting now can prevent further damage. SmokeFree.gov is a great free resource to get you on the path to quitting and keep you from picking the habit back up.
- Be Aware of Your Environment
People with pulmonary fibrosis may notice that certain environments trigger a decline in respiratory function. For example, dust, pet dander, the smell of chemicals at a hair salon, and gasoline fumes can irritate your lungs. Wearing a face mask can help in situations where triggers are unavoidable.
- Consider Joining a Support Group
It’s very important to have an emotional support system when you’re living with pulmonary fibrosis. Online communities and in-person support groups are great ways to connect with others who are struggling with your condition. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a wonderful resource dedicated to finding local and online support groups.