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How Do Non-Smokers Get Pulmonary Fibrosis?

18 Nov 2017
| Under Pulmonary Fibrosis | Posted by | 18 Comments
How do non-smokers get pulmonary fibrosis?

For people living with pulmonary fibrosis or people who are newly diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, you may wonder how you got the disease.

This is a common and normal question to ask. Pulmonary fibrosis is a type of interstitial lung disease. Generally, when a non-smoker gets pulmonary fibrosis, it can be challenging for doctors to know why.

When this happens, it’s usually considered idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, meaning there isn’t a known cause.

To help you better understand pulmonary fibrosis, we’re here to provide some answers to the question “how do non-smokers get pulmonary fibrosis?”

What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis is a subset of a group of conditions referred to as interstitial lung disease.

It is a condition that scars the lungs, causing the intricate pulmonary passageways to thicken and harden, and making it difficult for oxygen to pass through the walls of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) into the bloodstream.

The resulting lack of oxygen in the bloodstream leaves people short of breath, even after periods of prolonged rest.

How Do Non-Smokers Get Pulmonary Fibrosis?

When a non-smoker gets pulmonary fibrosis, it’s generally considered idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a form with no known cause.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease that varies in the rate of degeneration from person to person. Scarring of the lungs is irreversible.

The various causes of pulmonary fibrosis that don’t involve smoking include occupational and environmental factors, reaction to medications, autoimmune disorders (specifically connective tissue disorders like rheumatoid arthritis), infection, genetics and some factors that remain a mystery.

Smoking exacerbates the condition and may lead to cancer and/or other lung conditions.

Possible Causes


Prolonged exposure to toxins or irritants, such as the following, can cause major damage to the lungs:

  • Silica dust
  • Asbestos fibers
  • Grain dust
  • Bird and animal feces
  • Burn Pits
  • Herbicides

Drug-induced Factors

People who have received radiation therapy or used certain medications for an extended period may be more susceptible. Some examples include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapeutic agents
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Antibiotics
  • Anticonvulsants


The role of genetics in the onset of pulmonary fibrosis is under evaluation.

An estimated 10 to 15 percent of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis have some form of inherited pulmonary fibrosis, referred to as familial pulmonary fibrosis.

Autoimmune Disorders

Those who suffer from autoimmune diseases–specifically connective tissue disorders–can develop pulmonary fibrosis.

These autoimmune disorders may lead to pulmonary fibrosis:

  • Scleroderma or progressive systemic sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Polymyositis or dermatomyositis


Severe infections can contribute to multiple types of interstitial lung disease, including pulmonary fibrosis.

How do non-smokers get pulmonary fibrosis?

Alternative Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments

While it can be challenging to answer the question “how do non-smokers get pulmonary fibrosis,”along with medications and lifestyle strategies, alternative treatments are available.

At the Lung Institute, we provide cellular therapys for people with chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis.

Cellular therapy is distinct from pharmacological medications, which typically only manage symptoms.

In cellular therapy, cells are extracted from the patient, separated in our on-site lab and returned to the patient intravenously.

Once returned, cells can work to promote healing from within the lungs, potentially improving quality of life.

Many of our patients report feeling better, seeing improvements in their quality of life and enjoying a more active lifestyle following treatment.

If you or a loved one has pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about your pulmonary fibrosis treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.


  1. Lung Institute

    3 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and question. We are sorry to hear about your mom’s condition. We would suggest you talk with your mom’s primary doctor or specialist to discuss that particular drug.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Barbara

    3 months ago

    My mom was a very healthy 83 year old. She now has pulmonary fibrosis. She never smoked but her husband was a three pack a day smoker for many many years. she also took an antibiotic, nItrofutOin (PROBABLY nOt SPELLING it rIght) Low dose for 2 years To keep her
    from getting utI’s. i’ve heard this medication can cause her problem. Any comment?

  3. Lung Institute

    5 months ago


    Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry to hear about your father. We might recommend your father see another doctor if he or you feel he is not being properly diagnosed. Lung disease can be difficult to diagnose. Having breathing problems and all the associated problems it can cause can be stressful, so we understand he may have some anxiety when he gets tired or breathes heavily.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy for chronic lung diseases. We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Gina

    5 months ago

    My Dad is 74 and has been a welder, tore down building’s with asbestos, etc. He has COPD, they checked arteries didn’t need stints, but he just has a hard time he tries to tinker around in his garage bc that’s what he loves to do, but after a few hrs he just says he feels sick to stomach and breaths heavily and says he has to go to bed. I have seen my Dad suffering and not enjoying life like he should, he’s retired and should enjoy life now… it’s been going on for the last 3yrs he just suffers and we have taken him to heart,lung,His MD and they say his lungs and heart good. Well y is he feeling sick and out of breath. I personally think it’s his nerves when he gets upset or someone’s not doing well it automatically KICKS in…
    Please help my Daddy

  5. Henry Stallings

    1 year ago

    I was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam In 1970. In 1974 I was diagnosed with a growth on my right lung which was removed and found to be non malignant. Now in 2016 I have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I have several presumably Agent orange disabilities reconized by the VA.
    I am age 74 and every year I receiving another gift from agent orange. I meet many Veterans with the same problems. As we are dieing off another generation of Veterans are taking our place. GULF WAR VETERANS.

  6. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing and we’re sorry to read that about your mom.

  7. Lisa

    1 year ago

    I just lost my mom to pulmonary fibrosis. She never smoked a day in her life nor was she exposed to smokers or anything toxic. What i believe happened is that due to complications from open heart surgery her lungs were scarred by the ventilator. Prior to surgery she had no issues with her lungs. After heart surgery she kept going back into respiratory failure and therefore was on the ventilator for over 10 days. Horrible way for someone you love so much to die. it breaks my heart.

  8. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Weldon,
    Thank you for your post. If you are interested in learning more about cell therapy and the Lung Institute, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. That way one of our patient coordinators can go over all your questions in greater detail. Thanks again and have a great day.

  9. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Bernie,
    Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we are unable to treat lung disease as a result of Agent Orange at this time. For more information, please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. Thanks again and have a great day.

  10. Weldon Frost

    1 year ago

    First hinted at in early 2010; “Rice krispies when breathing deeply”
    First 02 at night 2013
    First 02 24/7 12/2015
    Increasing from 6/l/min pulsed to currently 8/ l/min 12/2016 same date starting to need supplemental 02 (up to 10 1012 l/min by oral tube when waling more the10-15 feet . Age 86 w hite spot in eyes (macular) at 65 % blood 02. Have to stop, sit down and re-saturate.

  11. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Dixie,
    We’re sorry about your sister. You are correct, it is possible to get chronic lung disease without smoking, and environmental factors can play a part in it.

  12. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Miguel,
    Thank you for your question. Please give us a call at (855) 313-1149. That way one of our patient coordinators can go over our treatment and your medical situation. Thanks again and have a great day.

  13. Miguel

    1 year ago

    I a marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. I was exposed to herbicides burn pits fires of natural and man made materials and cordite I never smoked my entire life At age 62 I was diagnosed with IPF I am now 66 years old and on constant oxygen I have frequent colds flu and pumonuena

  14. Bernie Silva

    1 year ago

    I was exposed to Agent Orange as many other vets have been. I underwent a right lung transplant 7 years ago. My left lung remains. Is there a treatment through your cellular therapy that could possibly improve my left native lung? I am on immuno suppressants for the transplanted lung. I have seen and talked to more than a few vets who served and were exposed to Agent Orange and we had been diagnosed with the same illness, Pulmonary Fibrosis. Upon talking to each other I learned that the only common factor in our lives was the exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange. It may not be scientific but it seams that since we all came from different areas of the country, worked different careers, and different ethnic groups, there seams to be a connection.

  15. Dixie

    1 year ago

    My sister died of pulmonary fibrosis. She didn’t smoke, but she lived her whole life with people who did. She also tended bar for some years. I believe second-hand smoke had a lot to do with her disease.

  16. Randy

    1 year ago

    Les, there are a significant number of veterans from Vietnam that are experiencing PF. Many also have previous agent orange exposure.

  17. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Les,

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing some of your story with us. Because pulmonary fibrosis and other chronic lung diseases are complex conditions, it’s sometimes challenging to pinpoint what exactly caused the disease. There are many factors to consider, and it’s best to discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor. Because your doctor knows you and your health situation well, he or she will be able to best guide you.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  18. Les Butler

    1 year ago

    I have pulmonary fibrosis and spent over a year in an area in SEA with agent orange. I haven’t smoked since 1960 and had not been in any invironmenta player situation that might have caused the diese. could it have caused by agent orange?l

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