The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that causes lung tissue to become thick and stiff over time, making it harder for lungs to transfer oxygen into your bloodstream. The word fibrosis means scarring, referring to the thickened lung tissue. In some cases, doctors understand why the lung tissue has become scarred. It can be linked to cigarette smoking, viral infections and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, in most cases, the cause is unknown. These cases are called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
While we don’t know what causes IPF, we do know that genetics may play a role. Studies suggest that, in familial cases of IPF, family members often have a genetic disposition for the disease. Studying the disease on a cellular level allows researchers to better understand the genetic mutations that may cause the condition, resulting in knowledge that may lead us to answers.Currently, there is no cure for IPF.
What Does Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Feel Like?
Your lungs function to take in oxygen and send it into your body through your bloodstream. Each lung contains around 300 million tiny air sacs that fill up with air each time you inhale. This is relatively easy for people with healthy lungs, whose air sacs are thin, allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass through very easily.
In people with IPF, however, the scar tissue on the air sacs’ walls makes them thick and hard. This makes it very difficult for oxygen and carbon dioxide to flow through the air sacs, causing that person to feel out of breath.
Many people with IPF often experience rapid, shallow breathing and sometimes have a hacking cough that doesn’t go away. When a doctor listens to an IPF patient’s lungs with a stethoscope, he or she might hear a crackling noise. Some people with IPF experience “clubbing” of their extremities, meaning a widening and rounding of their fingers and toes. Other symptoms include feeling unusually tired,achy and unintentional weight loss.
Who is affected by Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?
IPF is a condition that generally affects middle-aged and older adults, and the severity of the disease varies from person to person. In some cases, the disease progresses rapidly, whereas in other people the disease might stay the same for years. About 48,000 people are diagnosed with IPF each year in the United States.
Many people who have been diagnosed with IPF only live about three to five years after diagnosis. The most common cause of death in those with IPF is respiratory failure, followed by pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and lung cancer.
Research has helped doctors be able to learn more about IPF, resulting in the ability to diagnose the condition more quickly. Additionally, researchers are currently studying several medicines that may help slow the progression of the disease, improving quality of life and potentially increasing the lifespan of IPF patients. Stem cell research has also shown great promise in potentially slowing the progression and improving quality of life for IPF patients as well.
If you or a loved one suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, stem cell therapy might be an option. Contact us today to learn more about stem cell therapy for IPF.