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Discharge Instructions for Emphysema

You've been diagnosed with emphysema. This is one of the 2 main types of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It's a lung disease that limits air flow in and out of your lungs. This makes breathing harder. Emphysema is most often caused by heavy, long-time cigarette smoking.

Home care

  • If you smoke, get help to quit.

    • Join a stop-smoking program. There are even phone, text, and online programs.

    • Ask your healthcare provider about medicines or other ways to help you quit.

    • Ask family members to quit smoking as well.

    • Don’t allow smoking in your home, in your car, or around you. This is very important if you use oxygen.

    • Don't use e-cigarettes or vaping products. They have harmful side effects.

  • Look into a pulmonary rehab program. Community-based and home-based programs work as well as hospital-based programs. They just need to be held as often and be as intense. Standard home-based pulmonary rehab programs help with shortness of breath in people with COPD. Traditional, supervised pulmonary rehab is the best choice for people with COPD. These programs help manage your disease. They do this by helping with breathing methods, exercise, support, and counseling. Ask your healthcare provider or call your local hospital to find one. Also talk with your provider about which rehab or self-management program is best for you.

  • Protect yourself from infection.

    • Wash your hands often. Keep your hands away from your face. Most germs are spread from your hands to your mouth.

    • Ask your provider about a yearly flu shot and pneumonia vaccines.

    • Stay away from crowds, especially in the winter. This is when more people have colds and flu.

    • To stay healthy, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep.

      • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. Ask your provider about a pulmonary rehab program. This helps improve your muscle strength. It also helps your ability to exercise and do daily tasks. Also ask about a self-management program. This may help control your symptoms.

      • Eating a balanced diet is important. So is trying to stay at your ideal weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect your health. So eat lots of fruits and vegetables, 100% whole-grain products, and lean meats and fish. You should also have low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheeses.

      • Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

  • Take your medicines just as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • If you use oxygen, use it correctly. That means how much you use. And how long you use it. Ask your provider about long-term oxygen therapy.

  • Try to stay away from things that may affect your breathing. This includes:

    • Cold weather

    • High humidity

    • Smoke

    • Air pollution

    • Dust

    • Allergens

  • Stay away from both indoor and outdoor pollution. They may also affect your breathing. Indoor pollution includes burning wood, smoke from home cooking, and heating fuels. Outdoor pollution includes dusts, vapors, fumes, gases, and other chemicals.

  • Unless your provider has told you otherwise, drink at least 8 glasses of fluid every day. This helps keep mucus thin. Ask about other things that can help.

  • Ask your provider to show you pursed-lip breathing. This can help decrease shortness of breath.

  • During each appointment, talk with your provider about your ability to:

    • Cope in your normal environment.

    • Use your inhaler (or your medicine delivery systems) to be sure you're using them right.

    • Cope with other conditions you have and medicines you take. Talk about and how they may affect your COPD.

    • Have or qualify for the endobronchial valve system procedure. This device treats breathing problems in people with severe emphysema.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

 When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Coughing gets worse

  • Increased mucus or yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Chills

  • Swollen ankles

  • Trouble doing your normal activities

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing that doesn't get better with treatment

  • Tightness in your chest that doesn't go away with your normal medicines

  • An irregular heartbeat or feeling that your heart is racing

  • Trouble talking

  • Feeling faint or lightheaded

  • Feeling of doom

  • Skin turning blue, gray, or purple in color

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Southard RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rajadurai Samnishanth Researcher
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2024
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