What is pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition that is characterized by scarring of the lungs. This damage stops the lungs from working properly, leading to breathing issues.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?
The major symptom of pulmonary fibrosis is shortness of breath, which progressively gets worse as the lungs continue to scar. Other symptoms include dry cough, fatigue, aches in the muscles and joints, unexplained weight loss, and the clubbing of fingers and toes.
Complications may arise due to this condition as well. Common complications include high blood pressure in the lungs, respiratory failure, failure of the right side of the heart, lung cancer, blood clots in the lungs, lung infections, or a collapsed lung.
What causes pulmonary fibrosis?
There are many causes of pulmonary fibrosis, but in some cases, the cause is never identified. This is referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos and coal dust, can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, as can radiation treatment and certain medications. Pulmonary fibrosis may also be a symptom of another medical condition, including rheumatoid arthritis or polymyositis.
There are also certain risk factors that can heighten the risk of pulmonary fibrosis. Males and people who are middle-aged and older are more likely to be affected by this condition. Smokers and those have received cancer treatment are as well. Certain occupations, like farming, construction, or mining, are at a heightened risk, as are those with specific genetic factors.
How is pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed?
The diagnostic process begins with doctors examining family and medical history. They will check for the characteristic signs and symptoms, as well as look for any potential causes. Your lungs will be listened to with a stethoscope as well. In order to confirm a diagnosis, doctors may order a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram, a CT scan, pulmonary functioning testing, an exercise stress test, a pulse oximetry, an arterial blood gas test, biopsies, and blood tests.
What are the treatments for pulmonary fibrosis?
There is no way to reverse the damage done by pulmonary fibrosis. Doctors may prescribe medications, such as pirfenidone or nintedanib, to slow the progression.Oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation do not slow the progression, but they can improve the function of the lungs and reduce some of the symptoms. In very severe cases a lung transplant may be necessary.