If you have hypersensitivity pneumonitis, you can take steps to control the condition and prevent complications by receiving routine follow-up care, monitoring your condition, preventing new acute flares and complications, and learning about and preparing for serious complications.
Receive routine follow-up care
In addition to treatments you are using to control your condition, your doctor may recommend other medical care to improve your quality of life, vaccines to prevent lung infections, and lifestyle changes such as physical activity and quitting smoking to improve overall health and avoid some complications.
- Other medical care: Your doctor may evaluate how your condition is affecting your activity level and mental health. To improve your quality of life, your doctor may recommend other treatments to address pain, fatigue, or mental health concerns that you may have.
- Vaccines: Remember that your condition causes you to have reduced lung function, particularly if you have subacute or chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Your doctor may recommend that you receive routine pneumococcal and flu (influenza) vaccines to avoid lung infections that can further impair your reduced lung function.
- Physical activity: Patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis benefit from regular exercise. Before starting any exercise program, ask your doctor about what level of physical activity is right for you.
- Quitting smoking: If you smoke, quit. Although smoking does not increase the risk of developing hypersensitivity pneumonitis, some studies suggest smoking can worsen disease and shorten survival for people with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis compared to nonsmokers with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Another study reported lung cancer in patients who smoked and had chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Monitor your condition
If you have been diagnosed with subacute or chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, your doctor may recommend follow-up testing to see how well your treatment is working and if your disease is improving, stable, or worse. To monitor your condition, your doctor may recommend repeating tests used earlier to diagnose hypersensitivity pneumonitis such as chest x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or lung function tests.
Your doctor may determine your disease is worse if you have new or more severe fibrosis or lung function problems. High-resolution CT scans may be more informative than lung function tests at assessing disease progression.
There is a growing recognition that disease tends to be worse, such as greater lung fibrosis, if it starts in childhood or early adult life. Therefore, more careful monitoring may be required for younger patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Prevent new acute flares and serious complications over your lifetime
To help prevent new acute flares and complications, your doctor may recommend tests to identify the substances causing your condition, as well as additional screening tests to prevent potentially fatal complications.
- Identification of substances causing your condition: If you do not know the environmental substances causing your condition, your doctor may recommend diagnostic precipitin and inhalation challenge tests. Identification can help avoid the environmental sources of the substances causing your condition. Successful avoidance strategies can help you live a longer, prevent new acute flares, and slow or stop progression to chronic disease with serious complications.
- Screening for serious complications: If you have been diagnosed with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, your doctor may recommend echocardiography and right-heart catheterization to evaluate pulmonary artery pressure and screen for pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension can occur in people who have chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, particularly in patients with more severe disease who have poorer lung function and reduced exercise capacity
Learn the warning signs of serious complications and have a plan
Always notify your doctor if your symptoms suddenly worsen. Your doctor will need to rule out other causes including infection and order repeat chest imaging tests. If these chest imaging tests show new findings without evidence of another cause, your doctor may modify your hypersensitivity pneumonitis treatment plan to better control your condition. Talk to your doctor and agree on a clinical decision plan to help you know when to seek urgent medical care.
- Return to Signs, Symptoms, and Complications to review signs, symptoms, and complications by type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
- Return to Diagnosis to review tests and procedures your doctor may recommend to monitor your condition or help identify the substances causing your condition.
- Return to Treatment to review avoidance strategies and other treatments.