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Respiratory Problems: The Difference between COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis

Respiratory Problems: The Difference between COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis

Chronic pulmonary disease is associated with a litany of respiratory problems that can make it difficult to understand what you have and what to do to feel better. Perhaps the most common pulmonary condition is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. However, pulmonary fibrosis is another common condition that sometimes gets overlooked in the shadow of COPD. In this article, we’re going to take a look at both COPD and pulmonary fibrosis, their causes, commonalities and differences.

Respiratory Problems: What is COPD?

Of respiratory problems, COPD most often stems from smoking cigarettes. While not as common, COPD may also be caused by air pollutants or a genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

COPD is characterized by a restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis fall under the category of COPD.

COPD Symptoms

Within COPD respiratory problems, the most prevalent symptom is experiencing shortness of breath. While this is likely going to be worse after physical exertion, a person with COPD can even experience shortness of breath while lying down. COPD patients might also experience feelings of anxiety or tightness in their chests.

Constant coughing is another indicator of COPD. Mucus build up is common in people with COPD, which creates a frequent need to cough.

Frequent respiratory infections are also associated with COPD. A person with COPD might regularly have pneumonia or bronchitis as a result of their disease.

Respiratory Problems: What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Respiratory Problems: The Difference between COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis

Within respiratory problems, a person with pulmonary fibrosis will also feel short of breath, as both conditions have similar symptoms. Pulmonary fibrosis is a different respiratory problem, however, in that a distinct characteristic of pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of lung tissue. The scarring causes a person’s pulmonary passageways to thicken and harden, making it more difficult for oxygen to travel through the lungs’ walls and into the bloodstream.

Pulmonary fibrosis falls under the larger category of interstitial lung disease, or a lung disease that affects oxygen absorption into the lungs. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a form of pulmonary fibrosis for which there is no known cause.

Pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by on-the-job environmental toxins, such as silica dust, burn pits and herbicides. It can also be drug-induced, stemming from treatments such as radiation therapy, antibiotics and anticonvulsants. Finally, pulmonary fibrosis can actually be genetic. In fact, it is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of pulmonary fibrosis patients have inherited the disorder. Of respiratory problems, it is more difficult to determine the cause of pulmonary fibrosis than it is for COPD.

Pulmonary Fibrosis Symptoms

Pulmonary fibrosis symptoms vary from person to person. Sometimes they can progress very quickly, while other people will experience moderate symptoms for years. The most common complaint of people with pulmonary fibrosis is experiencing shortness of breath. Other common symptoms include: coughing, weakness, fatigue, achy joints and weight loss.

Treatment Options

Both COPD and pulmonary fibrosis are serious respiratory problems that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure for either condition, there are steps that can be taken to help manage symptoms, such as daily medications, oxygen therapy and, for some, cellular therapy.

The Lung Institute is the leading provider of cellular therapy for COPD and pulmonary fibrosis in the United States. The treatments are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures where cells are harvested from a patient’s own body.

If you or a loved one is suffering from respiratory problems such as COPD or pulmonary fibrosis, we’d be happy to tell you more about how cellular therapy has helped many others. Contact us today to speak with a patient coordinator.


  1. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and we are sorry to hear about your condition. Stopping smoking was the best move you could make but it doesn’t mean the fibrosis will go away. You are doing the right thing by seeing a pulmonary doctor for next steps.

    In the meantime, you can learn more about cellular treatment options and have your questions answered by one of our patient coordinators. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Angie

    2 months ago

    my ct scan showed several swollen lymph nodes. Mild emphysema with scattered fibrosis in both lungs. No consolidation or pluerel enfusion. Just said another scan in a year. I stopped smoking over a year ago. Someone told me fibrosis is life threatening so I am going to see a pulmonary DR on my own. Why didnt the dr tell me fibrosis needed treated? Are there different kinds. Upset and worried. Thought I wa better since I stopped smoking.

  3. Lung Institute

    6 months ago


    Thank you for your question. Inhalers are one of the most common ways to treat the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis. Keep in mind, they only treat symptoms, they do not slow the progression of the disease.

    You should probably address this question to your primary doctor or specialist. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has some recommendations.

    If you are interested to learn more about our options, please contact one of our patient coordinators at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Jacqueline houghton

    6 months ago

    Do inhalers help pulmonary fibrosis

  5. Lung Institute

    8 months ago


    People with COPD or emphysema who are taking inhaled steroids have reported bruising. Here is a link to an article about that topic.

    Our treatment DOES NOT involve inhaled steroids. The Lung Institute has developed a cell therapy protocol for the treatment of lung disease with the purpose of affecting more than just its symptoms.By using autologous cells derived from the patient’s own body, cell therapy works to harness the body’s natural healing ability. This form of treatment is remarkable for its ability to ease the symptoms of lung disease and address its progression, all within a minimally invasive procedure with demonstrated effectiveness.

    You can learn more about cellular treatments and have your questions answered by one of our qualified patient coordinators. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. Dawn M Boyd

    10 months ago

    I would like to know if copd and emphazema Can cause extreme bruising.

  7. Phoebe

    10 months ago

    Hi Carol,

    We’re happy to discuss your questions and concerns further over our secure phone line. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  8. Carol Bennett

    10 months ago

    I have COPD and would love to take advantage of a cellular treatment however i can’t AFFord the cost. How can I possibly afford this treatment living on ssd?? I’m in stage 4 OF COPD, 62 yrs old and have many years to live. but am prevented from doing many activities due to this illness. is there anyway at all to make it affordable for individuals like myself?

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.