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Stages & Effects of Lung Disease

A diagnosis of lung disease can be frightening, but there are steps you can take to help you slow down the progression of restrictive lung disease and breathe easier. Starting today, you can make changes to your lifestyle that may have contributed to your disease and follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment.

Many factors will decide what your treatment regimen will be, particularly the severity of your lung disease or other respiratory condition. But whether you’ve been diagnosed at an earlier or later stage, the important thing to remember is that today’s medications, therapies and technologies are helping millions of people live longer and healthier lives.


Early stage

Frequently, symptoms begin with shortness of breath during exertion. Climbing stairs, walking uphill or other activities often become more difficult. Wheezing, chronic coughing and less energy may also affect your mobility and comfort.

At this stage, your doctor may decide on a less aggressive approach to your treatment, such as changing your lifestyle, which could include modifying your diet, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. It is imperative at this and every stage of your disease to follow your doctor’s orders. The steps you take now could mean the difference between keeping your lung disease at bay or experiencing a faster progression and worsening symptoms.

Advanced Stage

As lung disease progresses, you will experience decreasing airflow capacity. Simple activities you once took for granted, such as gardening or walking around the block, will most likely cause shortness of breath and fatigue.

At this stage, your doctor will probably add daily medication and oxygen therapy on an as-needed basis to your changes in lifestyle in order to treat your disease and make you more comfortable.

Late Stage

If or when your lung disease has progressed in severity, airflow capacity will be extremely limited. Difficulty breathing will most likely affect everything you do, from walking around the house to even resting at night.

At this stage, more medications will likely be prescribed and full-time oxygen therapy will be necessary. Even with these treatments, however, accomplishing simple tasks will cause shortness of breath, fatigue and discomfort. It is imperative that every patient does everything they can to never reach this stage!


BronchodilatorDepending on the stage of your disease, your doctor will have a range of treatment options. These will typically include oxygen therapy, medicines and making changes to your lifestyle, including diet, exercise and avoiding lung irritants, which may be smoking or an environmental factor. In addition, you may be prescribed medicines.

Many patients are prescribed a bronchodilator. These medicines are inhaled in order to open the bronchi and allow more airflow to the lungs. These can provide either short-term or long-term relief from lung disease symptoms. If the lung disease is advanced, other medications may be added.

In addition, you may require oxygen therapy. This entails breathing purified oxygen via a mask or breathing tube, supplied by either an oxygen tank or oxygen concentrator. These systems differ in portability, maintenance and ease of use. Oxygen concentrators offer the benefit of being compact, lightweight and travel-approved, depending on the model.

It’s vital that you follow your doctor’s instructions. Changing old lifestyle habits can be difficult but making these changes are essential to your future health and well-being. For additional help and advice, you may wish to contact a local lung disease support group. Ask your doctor, respiratory therapist or nurse for a nearby location.

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