When you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), it means that scar tissue is building up in your lungs. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this scarring. As IPF progresses, this damaged lung tissue thickens making breathing increasingly more difficult. Along with shortness of breath, you may feel other symptoms like fatigue or muscle and joint pain.
Continue reading to find out how to maintain a good quality of life with IPF.
Treating your IPF
There are some medical treatments available for IPF, but they don’t really combat the disease. Treatment is mostly geared toward managing symptoms and making day-to-day life a little easier. Your doctor will likely recommend one or more medical interventions, along with lifestyle changes that can help you maintain your quality of life.
Maintaining quality of life
There are several steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable and to make living with IPF less of a chore.
1. Stop smoking
IPF is more common in current and former smokers. Stopping smoking is the first step toward breathing easier. If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor and get serious about quitting. As you continue to live with IPF, it’s going to become more and more difficult to breathe. You don’t want to make things harder on your lungs by wasting those breaths on poisonous smoke.
2. Maintain a nutritious diet
You probably know that being overweight puts stress on your entire body, including your lungs. With IPF, eating to maintain a healthy weight can be difficult. Eating itself can be uncomfortable and it takes more energy to breathe while chewing and swallowing.
If you find yourself struggling to get enough food intake, make sure you choose your meals wisely. Don’t waste energy eating unhealthy food. Make food choices that are full of nutrients and contain more calories per bite. A nutritionist or dietician can help you plan your diet.
3. Stay fit
It’s natural to want to avoid exercise when even the simplest activities make it harder to breathe. But, becoming a couch potato will actually make you feel worse. Your muscles will become weaker and more easily fatigued, making everyday tasks more difficult to manage. If you stay active, your muscles will be stronger, and you’ll become more practiced at tasks. This increased efficiency will actually help you use less oxygen and decrease that feeling of breathlessness.
4. Find a support group
A strong support network can make a huge difference in your outlook and sense of wellbeing. Simply being with others who understand your struggles and have similar stories can help you feel less alone. It may even lead to some brainstorming of ways to overcome daily hurdles. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a list of both community and online groups for people with IPF.
5. Learn to relax
Practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques can help you manage your everyday stress. This can be especially helpful if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Learning to relax can also help you calm your breathing and reduce the workload on your lungs.
6. Ask about pulmonary rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehabilitation is becoming increasingly popular in the IPF community. The multifaceted program takes advantage of many medical and therapeutic specialists to teach ways to live better, improve your overall health, and increase the strength and function of your lungs.
Clinical trials may also be an option for you. The American Thoracic Society has resources and information on how to enroll.
While it’s true that there’s no current cure for IPF, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve your situation. By taking control of your lifestyle, you can learn to feel better, live better, and enjoy a greater quality of life with IPF.