We’ve all encountered the draining weariness of tiredness, where even the energy to bend down and simply tie a shoelace can result in strained breathing. Emphysema, a chronic lung disease belonging to a group of diseases called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), can interfere with your lung function, making you tired a lot. Yet, have you ever considered what fatigue could feel like for someone dealing with this disease?
Fatigue is probably the second most prevalent symptom of COPD, following shortness of breath (dyspnea), and is usually correlated with the severity of COPD functional impairment. Although researchers continue to investigate the link of both, studies indicate that it likely arises from the progressive damage that the disease inflicts on the lungs.
Emphysema leads to airflow obstruction and respiratory difficulties. The impediment to airflow and labored breathing complicates the process of oxygen (O2) intake and the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the lungs.
The constrained oxygen supply and the gradual accumulation of carbon dioxide contribute to sensations of feeling tired with low energy. Also, as the disease makes breathing challenging, it demands significant effort – the heightened exertion required for breathing consumes additional energy, contributing to extra fatigue.
Furthermore, other emphysema symptoms may prompt you to curtail your activities, resulting in diminished stamina and physical deconditioning. As a person becomes more deconditioned, even routine tasks can induce heightened fatigue. This situation can drive you into an unpleasant cycle.
Therefore sometimes the disease may cause extreme fatigue not only during regular activities but also during periods of rest, dependent on the stage of the disease!
Emphysema fatigue can substantially hinder one’s capacity to engage in daily activities, including personal grooming. This may contribute to reduced activity levels and probably depression. So if poorly managed, the disease could impact on an individual’s overall quality of life.
Currently, a lung transplant is the only way to reverse or cure the disease. However, several treatments are available to help ease emphysema symptoms, including fatigue. These are as follows:
- Antibiotics: In case of when a respiratory infection has a role in worsening emphysema symptoms, antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat and get rid of the infection.
- Bronchodilators: Specific medications to help open airways for easier breathing.
- Combination medicines: Sometimes more than one medicine is used to ease the problem. For instance, bronchodilator and steroid. As mentioned before, bronchodilators can aid in opening airways – while steroids to help alleviate inflammation in the lungs.
- Oxygen therapy: When blood oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy is usually used to deal with (see more here).
- Pulmonary therapy and rehabilitation: This program imparts strategies to ease emphysema symptoms, offering guidance on exercise, proper posture, energy conservation, and healthy eating to improve your lung function for easier breathing.
And in cases of severe symptoms unresponsive to other treatments, surgical intervention may be necessary. This may involve removing the most damaged portions of the lungs!
Living with emphysema and COPD is an ongoing commitment, necessitating adherence to the guidance provided by your healthcare team and the cultivation of a healthy lifestyle.
Given the compromised state of your lungs, it’s essential to steer clear of activities that could strain them or trigger exacerbations. Several lifestyle measures can be part of your strategy guidance to help address fatigue and boost energy.
COPD and fatigue may disrupt your rest, underscoring the importance of adhering to a consistent sleep routine. This practice is essential to achieve a full night’s sleep, effectively combating feelings of your fatigue.
Maintaining a consistent bedtime and waking schedule, including weekends, helps condition your brain and body to receive the necessary amount of sleep! So always try to get a consistent sleep routine every day!
Furthermore, try also adopting a regular pre-bed ritual, such as washing up, donning sleepwear, and engaging in relaxing activities like reading, stretching, or meditation for about 30 minutes. This idea can help further signal to your mind that it’s time for sleep.
Maintain a balance between activity and rest to prevent excessive fatigue. Take breaks and rest before exhaustion sets in. If an activity demands a significant amount of energy, break it down into manageable parts. For example, start by folding the laundry and then take a rest before proceeding to put it away.
Save your energy (conserve your energy by adopting efficient body movements during tasks)! Perform activities at a deliberate pace, avoiding rushing, as it requires more energy and may exacerbate your emphysema symptoms especially shortness of breath.
Consider sitting while dressing and handling daily tasks like brushing your teeth. Utilize a cart with wheels to move items such as food and laundry around your house. Arrange frequently used items at waist level for easy access.
Be smart and prioritize activities that are most important to you during periods of peak energy. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from family and friends if you will have more challenging tasks!
When fatigued, exercise might seem like the least appealing option, but incorporating regular physical activity can be advantageous for people with emphysema.
Despite potential shortness of breath, engaging in regular exercise can strengthen your respiratory muscles and boost energy levels. Walking, in particular, serves as an effective means to enhance oxygen circulation throughout the body.
The American Lung Association (ALA) highlights that a moderate exercise routine can enhance oxygen utilization, ease shortness of breath, boost energy and muscle strength, decrease anxiety and depression, and promote a better sleep at night .
However to keep safe, consult first with your healthcare provider to identify safe and suitable exercises for your specific needs!
- Maintain your healthy weight to optimize energy levels! Underweight conditions can restrict energy, while excess weight can exacerbate shortness of breath. Collaborate with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable weight range for your well-being!
- Your diet plays a key role! Get proper nutrition even when fatigued, as inadequate eating habits can worsen symptoms. Take a moment to rest before meals and consider consuming smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to ease your tiredness. Also, steer clear of highly processed foods rich in calories and salt, yet deficient in essential nutrients. If necessary, talk to your doctor to discuss the potential need for vitamins or supplements to ensure a well-balanced diet.
- Try breathing exercises! Engaging in various breathing techniques is likely one of the most effective ways to cope with emphysema fatigue. These techniques can enhance your lung function, making it work more efficiently and alleviating shortness of breath.
- Take proactive measures to prevent lung infections! Obtain the vaccines recommended by your healthcare provider for flu and pneumonia, as these illnesses can exacerbate emphysema symptoms. During cold and flu seasons, avoid crowds and proximity to sick individuals to minimize exposure. Additionally, practice proper hand hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap and clean water.
- Also, avoid tobacco smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke. Steer clear of other irritants that may increase the risk of disease flare-ups.