Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a chronic respiratory disease that causes scarring of the tissue inside and between the air sacs of the lungs. Due to this scarring, the tissue becomes thickened and stiff. It becomes difficult for oxygen to flow through the walls of the air sac into the blood, thereby, leading to perpetual breathing problem. Once the lung tissue becomes scarred, the damage cannot be undone. Pulmonary fibrosis is a part of larger group of lung diseases called Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) that can cause lung scarring.
The average life expectancy of a patient with pulmonary fibrosis is considered to be 3 to 5 years, but early diagnosis and proper treatment can help in slowing down the progression of the disease.
The severity of the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis causes is classified into four stages – mild, moderate, severe and very severe.
The primary symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis causes are listed below:
- Constant difficulty in breathing, particularly during exertion, such as stair climbing.
- Chronic dry, hacking coughing.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Chest discomfort including chest pain.
- Loss of appetite and rapid weight loss.
- Muscle and joint pain.
- Sometimes the reduced supply of oxygen in the blood can result in clubbing of the tips of the fingers or toes in some patients.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Sometimes the specific reason of pulmonary fibrosis can be determined, but in some patients, the identifiable pulmonary fibrosis causes cannot be diagnosed, or the disease arises spontaneously, a condition known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Pulmonary fibrosis causes
The pulmonary fibrosis causes when identified can be any of the following:
- Connective Tissue Diseases
Certain connective tissue diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, and some kind of muscle diseases can cause the immune system of the body to attack the lungs resulting in inflammation and scarring.
Pulmonary fibrosis can also be caused due to inhalation of environmental and occupational contaminants such as coal dust, high metal dust in asbestosis, silicosis, etc. and also exposure to harmful gases.
Application of some medications and drugs during treatment of diseases can also be one of the pulmonary fibrosis causes. Drugs like nitrofurantoin, sulfasalazine, amiodarone, apomorphine, or Radiation therapy to the chest, etc. can be one of the pulmonary fibrosis causes.
Estimates show that 10-15% of patients diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis have some family member affected by the same disease, medically termed as Familial pulmonary fibrosis (FPF) or Familial Interstitial Pneumonia (FIP).
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Sometimes the stomach acid backs up into the throat, a condition called Gastroesophageal reflux disease. People are having this disease breathe in tiny drops of acid from their stomachs, which may harm the lungs.
Excessive cigarette smoking can decrease the life expectancy of a patient or worsen the condition.
No permanent cure for pulmonary fibrosis is known yet, but undergoing regular treatments and therapies can help in relieving the symptoms and slowing down the course of the disease. Let us have a look at some of the important treatments for pulmonary fibrosis:
Depending on the severity of pulmonary fibrosis, some medications can be provided. Many patients are prescribed the dose of Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation though it is not advised for long-term as it can have serious side effects. Azathioprine and Cyclophosphamide suppress the immune system and are also sometimes recommended to lessen inflammation.
- Oxygen therapy
When the supply of oxygen in the blood becomes really low, oxygen therapy is used. Supplemental oxygen therapy improves the breathing problem in the patients and helps them in staying active.
- Lung Transplant
A lung transplant can be considered only if the patient’s physical condition is good enough having no other serious diseases and is ready to face the consequences of the surgery, and be compliant with subsequent medical treatment.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Pulmonary fibrosis patients are advised to join pulmonary rehabilitation program to learn and be aware of the symptoms and causes of the disease, treatment facilities, breathing techniques, and exercises, how to manage the disease. This program also provides support and counseling sessions for the patients.
Managing Pulmonary Fibrosis
Patients who are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis can manage the disease condition and live a healthy life by following the steps mentioned below:
- Quit smoking and also avoid passive smoke by staying away from people who smoke.
- Do regular exercises that will make breathing easier.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain ideal body weight.
- Seek support from family, friends or a support group to get rid of stress and depression caused by the disease.
Generally, the prognosis of the patients suffering from pulmonary fibrosis varies from person to person and mostly depends on their age, health, lifestyle habits and the acuteness of the disease at the time of diagnosis.