The Struggle of Being Diagnosed With Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

According to a story from The Irish Times, Noreen O’Carroll can vividly remember when she first received the news that she had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It was a moment that would change her life forever. Doctors told her that she could expect to live for only two to five more years. Getting a frightening diagnosis is one memory that few patients ever forget, especially when it is clear that your days could be numbered.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a disease in which the inner passageways of the lungs become scarred. The condition progressively worsens over time, leading to steadily worsening loss of lung function. The direct cause of this condition is not fully known. Some risk factors include smoking tobacco, a family history of the disease, and exposure to certain viral infections. Symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath, clubbing of the digits, low exercise tolerance, and a distinctive crackling sound that can be heard on a stethoscope. Patients may benefit from lung rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, a certain medications that can reduce the symptoms, but the disease is ultimately fatal and cannot current be reversed. To learn more about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, click here.

Before she was diagnosed with IPF, Noreen has already been dealing with another lung disease, bronchiectasis, for about three years. However, the situation got far more serious when she realized that this new disease could drastically shorten her life. In an urgent search for support, she showed up for a meeting of the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association (ILFA), which helped her get more of a grasp on her situation. Since then, Noreen has been taking medication that has allowed her to manage the condition reasonably well, though it often leaves her with little spare energy.

Her best option to prolong her life would be a lung transplant. For now, Noreen has become an IPF patient advocate and gives talks for the IFLA to help new patients cope with what was happening to them. Noreen says that her loving family has been her strongest source of support. She also emphasizes the importance of maintaining mental health, and shares that sessions with a therapist have also helped her cope.

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