What Is COPD Fatigue & How To Manage It?

What is COPD Fatigue?

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a chronic lung disorder which has conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema under its umbrella. The primary symptom of COPD is problems with breathing. Additionally, it has been seen that people with COPD often have very low energy levels and are constantly fatigued.

According to various research carried out on COPD, it has been observed that approximately 60% of people with this condition often have fatigue as one of the primary symptoms. Researchers’ state that COPD and fatigue are two parts of the same coin but what is the reason for this close association is something which is still not clear.[2]

One theory suggests that people who have COPD have problems breathing in enough oxygen from the air. This results in the body having a depleted level of oxygen. This shortage and gradual buildup of carbon dioxide in the body is the primary reason as to why an individual feels tired and very low on energy levels. To know the prevalence of fatigue and its impact in the daily lives in COPD patients, a study was conducted. The main aim of this study was to observe the prevalence, duration, and severity of the fatigue in patients with COPD.[1]

The study also aimed at analyzing the impact of fatigue on the psychosocial, cognitive, and general health of an individual with COPD. For this a questionnaire about the duration, severity, and frequency of fatigue was asked to patients with known diagnosis of COPD. A total of 36 people participated in the study. The results of the study showed that around 42% of people experienced fatigue every day. Among the people who experienced fatigue every day, 52% experienced it for an average duration of about 6 hours.[1]

About 44% of people reported that fatigue was the worst symptom that they ever had since the diagnosis of COPD. They also agreed to the fatigue significantly impacting their daily lives and their ability to focus and concentrate on tasks. This study concluded that fatigue was quite prevalent in patients with COPD and significantly affected their daily routine. This article suggests some easy ways to manage COPD fatigue.[1]

How to Manage COPD Fatigue?

Below mentioned are some of the best ways to manage COPD Fatigue.

Breathing Exercises: There are a lot of breathing exercises that are quite effective in treating COPD Fatigue. Among them, Pursed Lip Breathing is perhaps the easiest and most effective. These exercises release any air that is trapped within the lungs. This gives plenty of space for fresh oxygenated air to fill in the lungs thus increasing the oxygen levels. It also slows down the respiratory rate. This ultimately relieves breathing problems and allows an individual to carry out activities and even at times exercises without any discomfort or fatigue.[2]

Pursed Lip Breathing is very easy to do and can be done anywhere. For this, the individual just has to inhale air by mouth and then purse the lip to exhale the deoxygenated air slowly as if blowing out a candle or whistling. It takes time to master this exercise and thus it should be done in the initial stages when the breathing is normal and there is no stress on the lungs.[2]

Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet is another way to manage fatigue caused by COPD. A balanced diet provides the body the energy it requires for normal functioning. According to the American Lung Association, an individual with COPD should eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Wholegrain breads are also quite effective and provide plenty of energy. It is better to avoid simple carbs like soda, candies, and cakes.[2]

The individual should eat a diet rich in fiber like nuts and seeds. Chicken, eggs, and beans are also something that is quite effective to manage COPD fatigue. Trans-fats are something that needs to be completely avoided in people with COPD related fatigue.[2]

Rest between Activities: It is also essential for people with COPD to take some rest in between activities. This can be accomplished by doing a particular activity in a step wise fashion and taking frequent breaks. An alternative way to do this is by doing an activity slowly than the norm and in a relaxed way. This way the individual can save energy and should be able to do more activities without any problems.[2]

Regular Exercising: It is easier said than done since excessive fatigue will not allow an individual to partake in any form of exercise. However, if the individual has a strong will power and does some exercise or the other even for a short period of time then it is quite effective in combating fatigue caused by COPD. Yoga and walking are the best ways to keep the body fit and strengthen the lung and heart muscles.[2]

A good choice is to enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. In this program the patient will be taught how to do exercises on a daily basis. These exercises will be monitored by physicians and will be done in a clinic or a hospital. Additionally, the patient will also be taught different ways to conserve energy and combat fatigue caused by COPD.[2]

Stay Hydrated: Keeping the body hydrated is also an effective way to manage COPD Fatigue. A dehydrated individual will anyways have low energy levels and COPD will exacerbate it and make the individual feel that much more tired. Staying hydrated will make the mucous thin and decreasing the coughing episodes. It is recommended that people with COPD should drink at least 6 eight ounce glasses of fluids every day in the form of water or juice.[2]

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