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Emphysema
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Emphysema

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ASTHMA & RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Respiratory System

Self-care

If you have emphysema, you can take a number of steps to halt its progression and to protect yourself from complications:

  • Stop smoking. This is the best step you can take to halt the progression of emphysema. Join a smoking cessation program if you need help giving up smoking. As much as possible, avoid secondhand smoke. Sit in nonsmoking areas when you're out and ask family and friends not to smoke in your home.

  • Exercise regularly. Less strenuous exercise, such as walking or cycling, can increase your exercise tolerance. So can simple breathing techniques prescribed by your doctor. Some people are able to improve the efficiency of their lungs using these techniques.

  • Avoid other respiratory irritants. These include fumes from paint and automobile exhaust, some cooking odors, certain perfumes, dust, cold air and extremely humid air. Keep the humidity level in your home at 40 percent to 50 percent. Change furnace and air conditioner filters regularly to limit pollutants in your home. If you enjoy hobbies such as woodworking or ceramics, use a dust mask for protection.

  • Clear your airways. With emphysema, mucus tends to collect in your air passages and can be difficult to clear. To keep secretions thin and easy to bring up, drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of nonalcoholic fluids every day.

  • Protect yourself from cold air. During cold weather wear a soft scarf or a cold air mask — available from a pharmacy — over your mouth and nose to warm the air that is entering your lungs. For the same reason, breathe through your nose because cold air can cause spasms of the bronchial passages.

  • Avoid respiratory infections. Get a pneumonia vaccination as advised by your doctor and an annual influenza immunization. Avoid direct contact with people who have a cold or the flu.

  • Maintain good nutrition. A well-balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs for energy, building and maintaining body cells, and regulating body processes. Work toward and maintain a desirable body weight. Being overweight requires more oxygen and can interfere with breathing. If you're underweight, achieving a healthy weight may increase your strength. When the effort to eat is taxing, you may need to eat smaller meals more frequently. Some people are helped by eating their larger meal earlier in the day and avoiding lying down after meals. Choosing soft, easy-to-digest foods such as yogurt, rice, baked potatoes, and poached chicken or fish may also help.

  • Express your feelings. Having COPD may cause a gradual change in your lifestyle and that of your family. Share your feelings and concerns about your disease with your family, friends and doctor. Be alert to changes in your mood and your relations with others. Living with emphysema can be difficult. Don't be afraid to seek counseling if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.

  • Consider a support group. You may also want to consider joining a support group for people with emphysema. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be a good source of information about new treatments and coping strategies. And it can be encouraging to be around other people who are meeting the same challenges you are. If you're interested in a support group, talk to your doctor. Or, contact your local chapter of the American Lung Association.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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