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Discharge Instructions for Emphysema

You have been diagnosed with emphysema. Emphysema is one of the two main types of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It's a lung disease that limits the flow of air 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 telephone, text message, 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 because they have harmful side effects.

  • Look into a rehab program. Community-based and home-based programs work as well as hospital-based programs as long as they are held as often and are 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 by helping with breathing methods, exercise, support, and counseling. To find one, ask your provider or call your local hospital. Also, talk with your healthcare 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 healthcare 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 to help control your symptoms.

      • Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important to staying as healthy as possible. So is trying to stay at your ideal weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect your health. This means eating lots of fruit and vegetables, 100% whole-grain products, and lean meats and fish. You should also have low-fat dairy products such as 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 the amount you use and the length of time you use it. Ask your healthcare 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, and allergens. Stay away from both indoor and outdoor pollution. 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 to help decrease shortness of breath.

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

    • Cope in your normal environment.

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

    • Cope with other conditions you have and medicines you take and how they may impact your COPD

    • Have or qualify for the endobronchial valve system procedure. It's a device used to treat 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 the following:

  • Coughing gets worse

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

  • Fever or 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

  • Lightheadedness or feeling faint

  • Feeling of doom

  • Skin turning blue, gray, or purple in color

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2018
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