What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that causes damage and scarring in the tissue of the lungs. This build-up of scar tissue makes your lungs thick and stiff, making it difficult to breathe.
Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Environmental factors
- Certain medications
- Some connective tissue diseases
- Interstitial lung disease (a group of disorders that can cause fibrosis of the lungs)
In many cases, the exact cause is unknown. This is referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Shortness of breath is the most common symptom. Other symptoms include:
- A dry, hacking cough that doesn't improve
- Extreme tiredness
- Weight loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Widening and rounding of the fingertips or toes, known as clubbing
Diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Your doctor diagnoses pulmonary fibrosis based on your medical and family history. You may require imaging tests, a biopsy, and lung function tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis
There is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Treatment involves the management of your symptoms and improving your quality of life. The common treatment options used to achieve these may include:
- Medication: These can slow the progression of the disease. In addition, your doctor may prescribe anti-acid medications for treating GERD (reflux), which may occur in people suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
- Oxygen therapy: You may require oxygen if the disease is limiting the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs through your bloodstream. This treatment works by pumping oxygen from a portable tank through a tube to a mask worn over your nose or mouth. Oxygen therapy can improve your sleep, make breathing easier, and improve your sense of well-being.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: This treatment can manage your symptoms and improve your daily life by adopting breathing techniques, specific exercises, and adjusting your nutrition.
- Lung transplant: This surgical treatment involves transplanting new lungs from a deceased donor. Having a lung transplant can improve the quality and length of your life.