Pulmonary fibrosis is progressive scarring of the lungs. There are over 200 types of pulmonary fibrosis. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most well-known. Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown. An initial diagnosis of IPF is often incorrect. Further examination by the appropriate specialists often reveals that it is not idiopathic and has an underlying cause. Accurate diagnosis is crucial to proper treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:
- Shortness of breath, initially with exertion, then during the most basic activities as the disease progresses
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Dry, hacking cough
- Chest discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Aching muscles and joints
- Clubbing of the fingers or toes
Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Determining the cause of your pulmonary fibrosis could save your life. Causes of pulmonary fibrosis include:
- Exposure to inorganic dusts including asbestos, coal dust, hard metal, silica and beryllium
- Environmental to organic dusts including bacteria, molds, and animal proteins (hypersensitivity pneumonitis)
- Certain medications (drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis)
- Autoimmune disease
- Genetic or inherited diseases
Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatment
Treatment for pulmonary fibrosis depends, partly, on the cause. For instance, when caught in the early stages, damage caused by hypersensitivity pneumonitis can be reversed by completely avoiding the dust that is causing the disease. Similarly, drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis may be reversed by discontinuing the medication causing it. When the damage is too extensive to be reversed, eliminating the cause can stop the progression.
In some types of pulmonary fibrosis, the progression cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed down. Some patients require lung transplant.