The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Pulmonary Fibrosis Spotlight
Whether you have been recently diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis or have had the condition for a long time, living with a chronic lung disease can be challenging. Between trying to manage symptoms, going to doctors’ appointments, taking medications on time and keeping track of your health, understanding your condition can be difficult. Here are some important basics in this pulmonary fibrosis spotlight.
What is pulmonary fibrosis?
According to the Mayo Clinic, pulmonary fibrosis occurs when lung tissue becomes scarred or damaged. The stiff, thickened tissue obstructs the free passage of oxygen through the walls of the lungs’ tiny air sacs (alveoli) into the bloodstream. As the disease progresses, patients with pulmonary fibrosis feel more short of breath over time.
What causes pulmonary fibrosis?
There are many causes of pulmonary fibrosis, including occupational and environmental factors, reaction to medications, autoimmune disorders, infection, genetics and unknown factors. Smoking also exacerbates pulmonary fibrosis.
Exposure to pollutants, such as silica dust, asbestos fibers, grain dust, and bird and animal feces, for a long period of time can cause lung damage. People who have received radiation therapy or have used certain medications, such as chemotherapeutic agents, antiarrhythmics, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants, may be more susceptible as well.
Also, people with autoimmune diseases, specifically connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can develop pulmonary fibrosis. With autoimmune disorders, your immune system can cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs.
When a specific cause cannot be identified, the disease may fall into a category known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Some examples include idiopathic nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, cryptogenic organizing pneumonia and sarcoidosis.
What are the symptoms?
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are a variety of symptoms. Because pulmonary fibrosis affects everyone differently, the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. While some people progress quickly, others progress more slowly, so be sure to talk with your physician about your symptoms. The most common symptoms are listed below:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Aching muscles and joints
- Dry, hacking cough
What treatments are available?
Even though the lung scarring that occurs with pulmonary fibrosis cannot be reversed, there are treatment options that may improve symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. For example, medications, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation are all possible treatment options.
According to the Mayo Clinic, many people are initially treated with a corticosteroid, sometimes in combination with other medications, such as cyclosporine, methotrexate and acetylcysteine. While the medications may slow the disease for some people, these medications cannot cure the disease.
Oxygen therapy is another option. Even though using oxygen can’t stop lung damage, it can help ease symptoms. Here’s how oxygen therapy can help:
- Make breathing easier
- Make exercising easier
- Lessen complications from low blood oxygen levels
- Reduce blood pressure in the right side of your heart
- Improve your sleep and sense of well-being
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a treatment option used to help treat the disease, improve daily functioning and help people with pulmonary fibrosis live satisfying lives. In pulmonary rehabilitation, the focus is typically on the following:
- Physical exercise to improve your endurance
- Breathing techniques that improve lung efficiency
- Nutritional counseling
- Counseling and support
Are there alternative treatment options?
Staying actively involved in your treatment can help you understand your condition and recognize when you have questions or concerns. If you smoke, then stopping smoking can help. Eating a balance, healthy diet and staying vaccinated are other ways for you to take your health into your own hands.
Trying alternative therapies, such as stem cell therapy, along with your current treatment plan may improve your quality of life. We hope that this pulmonary fibrosis spotlight has helped you learn more about this condition. For more information about how stem cell therapy could help promote healing and improve lung function in people with pulmonary fibrosis, contact us at (800) 729-3065.