Whether it was due to stress or pulling an all-nighter, we have all experienced that sluggish, tired feeling. But people with pulmonary fibrosis may be especially prone to fatigue.
Dealing with persistent fatigue can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life. Feeling worn out can make doing the tasks you need difficult. But it can also cause you to limit participating in the activities you enjoy.
Fatigue itself is not always easy to treat but understanding the contributing factors can help you find ways to cope. Fatigue in people with pulmonary fibrosis may occur due to a combination of factors including:
- Decreased oxygen levels: In some cases, patients with PF may have decreased oxygen levels, which can contribute to a constant feeling of being tired.
- Sleep difficulties: Some people with pulmonary fibrosis may also have problems sleeping. Sleep issues may develop due to frequent awakenings from coughing or shortness of breath.
- Emotional issues: The changes in your health can cause you to worry about the future. A decrease in your ability to do certain things may leave you with a sense of loss. Depression and anxiety are common in people who have chronic illnesses, such as PF. Emotional difficulties can contribute to low energy.
Tips for Coping with Fatigue
If you have pulmonary fibrosis, you don’t have to learn to live with fatigue. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to conserve energy, combat fatigue and improve your quality of life. Consider the following suggestions:
Talk with your doctor: It’s important to talk with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. Certain factors, which are contributing to fatigue may be easier to treat than others. Your doctor may order certain tests to find out more. For example, your physician may want to order blood tests to determine if you are anemic, deficient in having enough red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout the body, or have any vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D deficiencies can often lead to fatigue. An arterial blood gas may also be recommended to determine blood oxygen levels.
Know when to say when: There may be instances where you cannot accomplish everything on your to-do list. It’s important to know when to delegate and accept help from others. Also, learning to say no to some things allows you to have the energy to continue to participate in the activities you enjoy.
Pace yourself: Slow and steady sometimes wins the race. If fatigue tends to be a problem, pacing yourself may help manage breathlessness and conserve energy. Consider breaking activities into smaller tasks or take frequent breaks as needed.
Consider light exercise: Although it might be the last thing on your mind when you are tired, light exercise may improve fatigue. Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial for people with PF. Regular exercise can increase strength, improve exercise capacity and decrease shortness of breath, which all may improve energy level.
Improve sleep habits: Improved sleep may reduce fatigue. Practicing good sleep hygiene may improve quality of sleep. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable for sleeping. Most people sleep sounder in a dark, quiet room. Set the temperature at a level of warmth that is right for you. Limit caffeine several hours before bed since it can leave you tossing and turning. Placing an extra pillow or two under your head to raise you to a comfortable level may ease shortness of breath and improve sleep.
Content written by Dr. Jeremy Feldman, an expert in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, with contributions by MaryAnn DePietro, B.S. CRT, a licensed respiratory therapist.