Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Living With
If you have been diagnosed with IPF, it is important to continue your treatment plan. Talk to your doctor about how often to schedule follow-up care and how to monitor and understand your condition so you know when to get medical help. You may need lifestyle changes and pulmonary rehabilitation to help you manage the disease.
It is important to know that the progression of IPF is different for each person and cannot be predicted. Managing your condition is best done with the help of a healthcare team that can help improve your quality of life.
Receive routine follow-up care
Regular checkups with your doctor may be part of your follow-up and treatment. Tell your doctor if you suddenly experience a worsening of symptoms over a period of days or weeks. This event is called an exacerbation. Sometimes a trigger or other factor may cause it, but often there is no obvious cause. Exacerbations from IPF can be life threatening and are more common in advanced stages of IPF. People who have an exacerbation from IPF may have repeat episodes.
If your condition worsens, you may benefit from oxygen therapy full time. Some people who have IPF carry portable oxygen when they go out.
Monitor your condition
People who have IPF can have other conditions as well, so you may need to see several doctors who specialize in different areas of medical care.
Your doctor may use the following tests and procedures to monitor your condition, and also to determine whether to recommend a lung transplant.
Adopt healthy lifestyle changes
You may need to adopt healthy lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and prevent other conditions.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, quit. Also, try to avoid other lung irritants, such as dust, chemicals, and secondhand smoke. Visit Smoking and Your Heart and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Your Guide to a Healthy Heart. For free help quitting smoking, you may call the National Cancer Institute's Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).
- Get regular physical activity. Physical activity can help you maintain your strength and lung function and reduce stress. Try moderate exercise, such as walking or riding a stationary bike. Ask your doctor about using oxygen while exercising.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Adopt a heart-healthy diet. Also, eating smaller meals more often may relieve stomach fullness, which can make it hard to breathe.
Your doctor may ask you to make these lifestyle changes as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
Take care of your mental health
Living with IPF may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talking about how you feel with your healthcare team may help. Your doctor may recommend one or more steps you can take to protect your mental health.
- Get counseling, particularly behavioral therapy.
- Get treatment for depression. Medicines, such as antidepressants, or other treatments can improve your quality of life.
- Join a patient support group. This can help you adjust to living with IPF. You can see how other patients manage similar symptoms and their condition. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.
- Ask for support from family and friends. This can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
- Discuss palliative care. If you have serious symptoms of IPF, doctors may help you have a better quality of life with fewer symptoms.
To prevent exacerbations, your doctor may ask you to avoid situations where breathing is more difficult, such as in high altitudes, or when the air quality outside is poor from dust or pollution. Your doctor may treat exacerbations with medicines, such as glucocorticoids, or increased levels of supplemental oxygen.