Pulmonary Fibrosis — Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

by | May 22, 2019 | Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which the tissue around the air sacs of the lungs becomes damaged and scarring develops. Our lungs have millions of these tiny air sacs, called alveoli, and they are where oxygen from the air we breathe is transferred to our lungs. Scar tissue growth makes it progressively difficult for the lungs to perform this critical function, which can have a negative impact on your overall health and your quality of life.

How Pulmonary Fibrosis Affects Your Life

From shortness of breath that makes it hard to perform basic job functions and physical activities, to a decline in mental health that can strain relationships, pulmonary fibrosis can be a highly disruptive condition. While this type of lung damage is irreversible, it is possible to find relief and improved functioning through the right combination of treatment options.

We want to help you take a more proactive role in your care, which is why we’re providing the following full overview of pulmonary fibrosis, including potential treatment options that can return you to the healthy and active lifestyle you’ve been missing.

Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Medical researchers and physicians are still trying to fully understand this condition, which in many cases does not have an identifiable cause upon diagnosis. For these cases, doctors use the term idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis when the cause is unknown. There are a number of potential explanations for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases, including genetics, cigarette smoke and exposure to viruses.

Known causes of pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • Exposure to airborne toxins through air pollution or occupational exposure.
  • Medications, including chemotherapy drugs and certain anti-inflammatories
  • Other medical conditions, like pneumonia or rheumatoid arthritis, that can cause lung scarring.

Since this is a progressive condition, it is important for patients to understand and identify initial symptoms so that the condition can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Major Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Probably the most commonly reported initial symptom of pulmonary fibrosis is shortness of breath. As tissue damage spreads around the air sacs, their ability to fully fill with oxygen-rich air becomes compromised. This is what causes the out-of-breath sensation associated with this and other lung conditions.

Pulmonary fibrosis can also cause a dry cough, general fatigue, aches and pains, unexplained and uncontrollable weight loss, and rounding of the toes and fingertips. It is highly recommended to seek medical attention at the first sign of potential symptoms.

How Physicians Diagnose Pulmonary Fibrosis

When diagnosing nearly any condition, a physician will usually begin with a review of the patient’s medical history and a question-and-answer session about symptoms and how they are affecting daily activities. The next step will usually be a physical examination that includes listening to your breathing.

Confirming diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis will also generally include tests, such as the following:

  • A chest X-ray or CT scan
  • Lung function tests
  • Tissue sampling
  • Blood tests

If pulmonary fibrosis is determined to be the underlying cause of symptoms, there are a number of treatment options that can help you manage this condition.

Treating Pulmonary Fibrosis

Since it is currently a nonreversible and incurable condition, the primary treatment goals for pulmonary fibrosis are to slow its progression and relieve symptoms to improve quality of life. For many patients, one of the first steps should be making any necessary lifestyle changes that can limit the exposure of your lungs to harmful irritants. This includes quitting smoking, changing medications or working in an environment with better air quality, if at all possible.

There are also medications, in the form of pirfenidone and nintedanib, that have been shown to potentially slow the progression of scarring and damage in the lungs. Options to relieve symptoms and make it easier to perform daily activities include supplemental oxygen and pulmonary therapy.

At Lung Health Institute, we are leaders in regenerative treatments that can help people living with pulmonary fibrosis and other lung conditions get back to the activity level they’ve been missing out on. Our treatment options include cellular therapy, which uses a sample of a patient’s own blood to help restore healthy lung functioning and our Anti-inflammatory Initiative™, which includes nutrition plans and therapeutic exercises to help promote optimal lung health.

Take the next step to find relief. Contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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