One of the positives of the current COVID-19 public health pandemic is that it has drawn more attention to various conditions that can affect the lungs of residents of Costa Mesa and elsewhere, including some that may benefit from palliative care.
The team at Accredited Home Care has worked with clients with COVID this year and we’ve also worked with clients with other pulmonary conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis.
If you’re unfamiliar with pulmonary fibrosis, it’s a disease where the lung tissue becomes scarred and damaged. About 1 in 200 adults over age 65 suffer from this. There are about 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and about 200,000 people living with the condition, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.
In most cases, the scarring is permanent and can cause thickening of the lungs, which makes it harder to breathe and reduces the effectiveness of the lungs.
Treatment could mean working with a health provider on a regular basis for different therapies or medication plans, or a combination of both.
This type of treatment can go on for years, which is why palliative care might be a preferred option for some. Rather than try to find different treatments that could be expensive, painful, and have an unknown outcome, a palliative approach focuses on quality of life first.
This effectively means trying to live with it and live as normal of a life as possible. It could mean needing to avoid strenuous activities, such as intense exercise. It could also mean trying to protect yourself from other possible infections or conditions that can aggravate your already vulnerable lungs and overall well-being.
For those interested in learning more about the condition, September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign with a goal of eventually eradicating the condition.
The official event site offers a wealth of information about pulmonary fibrosis including trials that people could learn more about and consider participating in, along with a variety of providers around the country who are familiar with pulmonary fibrosis.
It also offers other forms of guidance for people suffering from the condition for their loved ones, including suggestions for posts on social media to make their followers more aware, or suggestions on how to organize events in one’s community to build interest and support. Opportunities are also available to make donations as well to continue research.
Though there’s no direct connection between COVID-19 and pulmonary fibrosis, having pulmonary fibrosis can weaken one’s immune system and make them more susceptible to COVID, especially if they’re receiving regular therapy.
Plus damage to the lungs from pulmonary fibrosis may make COVID symptoms worse if they do contract it.
Part of learning to live with pulmonary fibrosis is similar to some of the precautions about dealing with COVID, such as trying to avoid situations that could affect the lungs and overall breathing and practicing good hygiene and sanitation. It could also mean taking precautions such as wearing a mask in public to avoid exposure to various germs that could be disabling. But people with these types of pulmonary and respiratory diseases may actually have problems breathing through some types of masks.
A health care provider can discuss your case and provide a recommendation as to what type of mask can work best, such as a respirator, or even provide an official note you can display if challenged.
He or she can also go over different types of symptoms that can be shown beyond reduced breathing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with pulmonary fibrosis may experience a variety of symptoms such as increased fatigue, aching joints, sore muscles, a dry cough, and slightly wider fingertips. Unexplained weight gain sometimes takes place.
Everyone with this condition may experience different symptoms and each symptom has different severity. In some cases, symptoms may increase in duration or sensitivity over time. This could be something that gradually changes over months or years. Or it could be a faster, more critical situation where breathing may be impacted quickly that may require fast medical intervention like going to the emergency room.
A ventilator may be required, or someone placed on a transplant list. But these discussions can be had with their provider, especially if a client is focusing more on palliative care.
Your provider can also try to identify the source of pulmonary disease. There are several diseases that can cause scarring and even some environmental factors like chemical burns, inhaling something toxic either in a short term or a long-term basis. High levels of radiation have been known to cause lung damage.
Some vaping materials have been revealed to cause damage.
In some cases, some medications may cause scarring as a side effect, including some antibiotics, some chemotherapy chemicals, some anti-inflammatory items, or certain heart medications.
Some previous lung health conditions, such as pneumonia, also could cause longer-term damage. Those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease may be more likely to get this.
There also may be some genetic causes for lung scarring. Men over age 50 also seem to be more susceptible.
A provider may not be able to find a reason at all for shortness of breath due to scarring, which happens. This is called idiopathy pulmonary fibrosis.