Pulmonary fibrosis is a pulmonary disease that affects the lungs. A pulmonary disease is defined as a lung disease that inhibits the ability to breathe normally. There are many different types of lung disease that take the form of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Patients who suffer from pulmonary fibrosis find it difficult to breathe. It’s absolutely necessary for a sufferer to meet with a pulmonary specialist as this is one disease that progresses with time. Ignore it and the consequences for the patient are going to be dire. Categorised as a pulmonary disease and a restrictive lung disease- it’s a serious lung disease. This article is completely devoted to pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis symptoms and a lot more!
Table Of Contents
1. What is pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis is a restrictive lung disease that inhibits the ability of the lung to expand and thereby, reduces the lung’s capacity. Characteristic of all pulmonary disease, the patients suffer from shortness of breath and face difficulty in breathing.
It’s caused when the lung tissue gets damaged or scarred. As a result of the damage, the lung tissue thickens up and hence, doesn’t allow the lungs to function properly. Since it’s a progressive lung disease, it should not be ignored and a pulmonary specialist should be consulted as soon as the symptoms arise.
2. What is Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)?
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or better known as IPF is a type of pulmonary fibrosis which has no particular cause. IPF is the most common type of pulmonary fibrosis and nearly 50,000 new cases of IPF come up each year. Statistically- this restrictive lung disease is more commonly found in people aged between 50 and 70. Moreover, for some reason, most of the victims are men.
Similar to pulmonary fibrosis, IPF scars the lung tissue thereby reducing its overall efficiency. IPF is also a progressive lung disease. However, predicting the levels or stages of progressions is nearly impossible. A healthy looking IPF patient today can complain of experiencing great anguish tomorrow.
3. Causes of pulmonary fibrosis
As discussed earlier, the primary cause of pulmonary fibrosis is the damaging of lung tissue. But how does the lung tissues get damaged? What damages it? To get answers to these questions, we need to look at the causes of this pulmonary disease.
Occupational Hazard: The lungs get damaged when exposed to certain toxins and pollutants for a long period of time. Many occupations expose their employees/workers to harsh conditions wherein the employee is exposed to toxins and pollutants continuously for a long period of time. By ‘toxins and pollutants’, these are the substances one is referring to:
(a) Silica dust
(b) Coal dust
(c) Animal excreta
(d) Asbestos threads
Radiation Exposure: Repeated exposure to radiation has shown to damage the lungs. Therefore, patients who undergo chemotherapy and other such radiation-based treatment programs are highly susceptible to damaged lungs. The signs and symptoms of damaged lungs in such cases may not be immediate. It may take years after the exposure to really feel its side-effects. Yet, it’s a cause of lung damage and the extent of the damage is directly correlated to the levels and time of exposure.
Medications: Everyone knows that allopathic medicine has a dark-side that takes shape in the form of side-effects. The side-effects of certain medication can be lung-damaging. The different medications that end up damaging lungs are:
(a) Chemotherapy medication
(b) Cardiac medication
(c) Selected antibiotics
(d) Selected anti-inflammatory medication
Medical Ailments: Certain medical ailments can seriously damage the lungs causing pulmonary fibrosis. The different medical ailments that are known to damage the lungs are:
(d) Tissue related disease
While the possible causes of pulmonary fibrosis are many- the actual cause may be hard to decipher. When the cause of this restrictive lung disease is not definite it’s called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. So far, research hasn’t led to any conclusion regarding the reason behind the disease. However, if one’s looking for hypothesis then there are many- viruses, tobacco smoke & genetics are the most popular amongst them.
4. Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis
The severity of the pulmonary fibrosis symptoms differs from one person to another. Some people may experience serious symptoms immediately at the onset of this disease. However, such cases are extremely rare. Normally, you can expect the severity of the pulmonary fibrosis symptoms to worsen over time since it’s a progressive disease. The pulmonary specialist will judge the patient by looking at the severity of the pulmonary fibrosis symptoms and prescribe treatment methods accordingly. Patients suffering from this lung disease are likely to show symptoms such as:
‣ Frequent shortness of breath
‣ Lingering dry cough
‣ Unexplainable fatigue
‣ Unexpected weight loss
‣ Severely aching joints and muscles
‣ Clubbing of the toes and fingers
5. Treatment for pulmonary fibrosis
Now here comes the bad news. Pulmonary fibrosis has no ‘treatment’ perse. That’s exactly what the pulmonary specialist who you are going to consult is going to say. And, it’s true. The scarring of the lung tissues cannot be reversed. Worst still, doctors have found no way to stop the progression of the disease yet. Honestly, whatever treatment is undertaken, the objective of the treatment is just to reduce the pulmonary fibrosis symptoms. Nothing more than that. There’s no cure as such. All that can be hoped for is a reduction in the severity of the symptoms and a possible improvement in the quality of life.
The pulmonary specialist will decide on the suitable treatment method for the patient after looking at the severity of the symptoms. The different kinds of treatment options are:
‣ Medication: Patients will almost definitely be prescribed with medication possibly, in addition to other treatment methods. In addition to medicines that will help fight the pulmonary fibrosis, the pulmonary specialist may also prescribe anti-acid medication to treat GERD- a common disease that’s found in patients who suffer from IPF.
‣ Therapy: Oxygen therapy is a very popular treatment choice for pulmonary fibrosis. The therapy will not reverse the damage done to the scar tissue. However, it will make breathing a little bit easier. Patients can also expect to be able to exercise more freely. It will help bring the blood pressure to the normal levels while simultaneously improving the quality of sleep that one gets.
‣ Rehabilitation Programs: Recovery from most pulmonary diseases requires the patient to undergo a pulmonary rehabilitation program. The objective of the program is to help reduce the pulmonary fibrosis symptoms and also bring about a positive improvement in one’s regular day-to-day functioning. The program generally includes:
(a) Regular physical exercise
(b) The practice of different breathing techniques
(c) Nutritional guidance
‣ Lung Transplant: When the symptoms get too extreme and make living uncomfortable- that’s when the pulmonary specialist has to make a decision. Lung transplant or no? Lung transplant is the last option as it’s quite a complicated surgery. Hence, most doctors resort to it as a sort of last resort and will try to avoid it for as long as is possible.