Breathlessness treatments do reduce patient distress

November 29, 2018, King's College London

Breathlessness is a common symptom in advanced disease and can lead to panic and anxiety for patients and their family. It can trouble people even when resting or performing light activities around the home. With our aging population and increasing multi-morbidity, the number of people affected by breathlessness worldwide is set to rise.

Published today in the journal Thorax, the study combined the findings of existing research to better understand 'holistic' services for people with advanced disease experiencing breathlessness. These services aim to improve a person's ability to live with and manage their breathlessness by putting the person before their disease. They do this by providing information and education, psychological support, and encouraging self-management strategies that and their carers can continue to use.

There are no drug treatments licenced for breathlessness, but drug-free treatments such as breathing exercises or using a handheld fan can be used to good effect. These and the philosophy of palliative care that focuses on quality of life are brought together in these 'holistic' services.

Researchers found that patients who accessed these services were less distressed and depressed due to breathlessness. In interviews, people said they felt more in control and more confident in managing their breathlessness, were less isolated, and able to get back to their daily activities. Both patients and their carers, including family, said they appreciated the tailored education that helped them understand their breathlessness better. They particularly valued the simple management tips and the expert staff who took a dignified approach to their care.

Senior author Dr. Matthew Maddocks from King's College London said: "By using breathlessness as a marker of disease burden, these services prompt input from experts across different specialties to manage symptoms and concerns using a person-centred approach. Our research uncovered the wide-range of benefits and allows us to understand what patients and their family value most."

Professor Irene Higginson, Director of the Cicely Saunders Institute at King's College London and co-author of the research, said: "This work forms part of our programme to tackle breathlessness. This is such a neglected and frightening . Imagine if every breath you took caused panic and fear and you thought you could not breathe more.

"These services contain straightforward, usually drug-free, approaches, such as information cards and plans to help at home in a crisis, practical aids and tips, as well as support for the whole person and family through palliative care. They could make a major difference to the quality of life of many millions of people in the UK."

Margaret Ogden, a patient and public representative for the project said: "With my illness, breathlessness is the main and most problematic symptom for me. My mother also had suffered from breathlessness—she had terminal cancer. And my 90 year old uncle now currently suffers from it—he has asbestos on the lungs. It is such a debilitating symptom and has a huge impact on quality of life. Anything to reduce the impact of this symptom would have been a great help to me and my family"

Explore further: Breathlessness: the hidden health problem leaving millions struggling

Related Stories

Breathlessness: the hidden health problem leaving millions struggling

October 3, 2018
"It just stops your life, stops you from living. " This quote from an anonymous patient sums up the experience of millions of sufferers of a health problem that's rarely recognised or even discussed, yet has a major impact ...

Helping lung cancer sufferers self-manage breathlessness

November 1, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Breathlessness is one of the most distressing symptoms of lung cancer for both the patients and their carers, but QUT researchers are developing techniques to help patients effectively manage it themselves, ...

Breathlessness support leads to better quality of life and survival

October 29, 2014
A low-cost Breathlessness Support Service (BSS) led to better quality of life and survival rates for patients with lung disease and cancer, according to a study by a team of researchers at King's College London and clinicians ...

One in four older adults report breathlessness

September 12, 2016
(HealthDay)—Twenty-five percent of adults aged 70 years and older report breathlessness, which is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and severe fatigue, according to a study published online Sept. 7 in ...

Review: Opioids reduce breathlessness in COPD

April 3, 2015
(HealthDay)—In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), opioids can improve breathlessness, but not exercise capacity, according to a review published online March 24 in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Personalised treatment for people with chronic breathing disorders

September 20, 2017
Ever realised you've forgotten your inhaler and immediately felt your breathing become more difficult? Ever wanted to walk upstairs to get something, but the thought of becoming breathless has stopped you? You're not alone! ...

Recommended for you

PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds

December 6, 2018
Although relatively rare in the United States, and accounting for fewer than 5 percent of tuberculosis cases worldwide, TB of the brain—or tuberculosis meningitis (TBM)—is often deadly, always hard to treat, and a particular ...

Silicosis is on the rise, but is there a therapeutic target?

December 6, 2018
Researchers from the CNRS, the University of Orléans, and the company Artimmune, in collaboration with Turkish clinicians from Atatürk University, have identified a key mechanism of lung inflammation induced by silica exposure, ...

Infectivity of different HIV-1 strains may depend on which cell receptors they target

December 6, 2018
Distinct HIV-1 strains may differ in the nature of the CCR5 molecules to which they bind, affecting which cells they can infect and their ability to enter cells, according to a study published December 6 in the open-access ...

Protecting cell powerhouse paves way to better treatment of acute kidney injury

December 6, 2018
For the first time, scientists have described the body's natural mechanism for temporarily protecting the powerhouses of kidney cells when injury or disease means they aren't getting enough blood or oxygen.

New study uncovers why Rift Valley fever is catastrophic to developing fetuses

December 5, 2018
Like Zika, infection with Rift Valley fever virus can go unnoticed during pregnancy, all the while doing irreparable—often lethal—harm to the fetus. The results of a new study, led by researchers at the University of ...

Study highlights potential role of bioaerosol sampling to address airborne biological threats

December 5, 2018
As a leading global city with a high population density, Singapore is vulnerable to the introduction of biological threats. Initiating an early emergency response to such threats calls for the rapid identification of the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.