The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When it comes to living with pulmonary fibrosis (PF), there are many challenges you face on a daily basis. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have had pulmonary fibrosis for a while, it can be difficult to understand what pulmonary fibrosis treatments are available and which ones are best for you. It’s important to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan, track your progress and continue to check your lungs and pulmonary function. The lung scarring (fibrosis) that occurs in pulmonary fibrosis cannot be reversed, and there isn’t a cure. However, there are treatment options that may improve pulmonary fibrosis symptoms, improve quality of life or slow the progression of the disease. To help you know what available to you, here are the facts you need to know about pulmonary fibrosis treatments.
Pharmacologic Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments
There are several medications sometimes used as pulmonary fibrosis treatments. Your doctor will evaluate the severity of your pulmonary fibrosis to help him or her choose the most effective treatment options. Remember, it’s important to discuss these medication options with your doctor to determine if any of these may be helpful for you.
Some doctors prescribe corticosteroids such as prednisone, which are used to suppress the immune system and decrease inflammation. Another medication is cyclophosphamide or Cytoxan, which is a chemotherapy agent that can also suppress the immune system and has been used to treat certain forms of pulmonary fibrosis.
Because gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD can occur in people with pulmonary fibrosis, many doctors prescribe and recommend proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec OTC, Nexium and others.
Some of the newer pulmonary fibrosis treatments may help slow the progression of the disease. These medications include pirfenidone (Esbriet) and nintedanib (Ofev), which are FDA approved. Nintedanib is an anti-fibrotic drug that has been shown to slow the decline in lung function in mild-to-moderate pulmonary fibrosis. Pirfenidone is an anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory medication. It has also been shown to slow the progression of mild-to-moderate pulmonary fibrosis.
In combination with medications, supplemental oxygen therapy may also be prescribed to help ensure that you receive enough oxygen. Because the scar tissue pulmonary fibrosis causes slows down the movement of oxygen from the air sacs into the bloodstream, many people feel breathless and experience low blood oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy helps you get adequate oxygen.
Lifestyle Management Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments
Along with medications and oxygen therapy, lifestyle management strategies can also help you and work as part of your pulmonary fibrosis treatments. It’s important to see your doctor regularly even if you’re feeling well, so you and your doctor can keep track of how you’re doing. Staying up-to-date on your vaccinations, such as flu or pneumonia vaccines, is important.
If you currently smoke, it’s important to quit smoking. We understand how difficult quitting smoking can be, so remember to take it one step at a time and to see your doctor to ask for his or her help. Your doctor can provide you with resources to help you on your path to being smoke-free.
Some doctors may recommend that you monitor your blood oxygen levels at home with a handheld pulse oximeter, which be purchased at a local pharmacy.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program designed to help people with various pulmonary conditions breathe better with the goal of improving quality of life and a patient’s ability to function without feeling extreme shortness of breath.
Because being overweight can contribute to breathlessness, staying as active as possible and maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial.
Sometimes doctors may recommend lung transplantation. While the surgical techniques, outcomes and overall procedures have improved, lung transplant surgery is not without its risks. It’s important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Alternative Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments
Along with medications and lifestyle strategies, alternative treatments are also available to help people with pulmonary fibrosis. When people are ready to take their healthcare into their own hands or when they are ready to try something new, some patients turn to the Lung Institute.
At the Lung Institute, we provide stem cell treatments for people with chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis. Stem cell therapy is different from medications, which typically only manage symptoms. In stem cell therapy, the stem cells are extracted from the patient, separated in our on-site lab and then returned to the patient intravenously. Once returned, the stem cells can work to promote healing from within the lungs, potentially improving quality of life.
Many of our patients have reported feeling better, seeing improvements to their quality of life and enjoying a more active lifestyle after 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.