Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition resulting from excessive scarring of the lungs. This scarring causes the air sacs to stiffen and not be able to deliver oxygen as effectively to the rest of the body. Some symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:
- shortness of breath
- dry, hacking cough
- fast, shallow breathing
- gradual weight loss
- joint & muscle aches
- widening & rounding of the tips of the fingers or toes
Pulmonary fibrosis belongs to a family of related lung diseases and can only be diagnosed by a thorough physical exam. During this exam, the doctor will ask about the patient’s history and perform test such as x-rays, blood tests, lung biopsies, CT scans, and other procedures.
There is currently no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Current treatments cannot remove scarring that has already occurred and instead try to prevent further scarring and help the patient breathe despite the damage to their lungs. However, there are several new treatments being studied for pulmonary fibrosis that may yield additional results.
Current treatments for pulmonary fibrosis include:
- Medicine. The most commonly used medicine is prednisone, a prescription corticosteroid that reduces inflammation. Other medicines include azarthioprine and cycolophosphamide, which suppress the immune systems. They can help prevent further scarring and extend the patient’s life, but they don’t work for all patients and can have serious side effects.
- Oxygen therapy. Supplemental oxygen helps the patient breathe easier by delivering higher concentrations of oxygen directly to the patient to help compensate for the damaged lungs. It can help reduce shortness of breath and help patients continue to live an active life.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation is a holistic program that teaches the patient how to manage their disease and provides support and counseling.
- Lung transplant can be considered for patients younger than 65 that do not have other medical problems.
In addition to these treatments, patients can take certain steps to stay healthy. Patients should take all their medicines as directed by their doctor. They should also take precautions to stay healthy including getting a flu shot, quitting smoking, staying active, and eating a well-balanced diet