Pulmonary Disease

  • Treating Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Without Drugs

    If you've had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis since before October of 2014, then you're probably familiar with the ways to treat it that doesn't involve pharmaceuticals. If you've recently been diagnosed with IPF, then you might not be aware of the non-pharmacological ways of lessening the symptoms of this disease.

    IPF is the name given to the condition that causes deep tissue in the lungs to thicken, making it harder to bring enough oxygen to the bloodstream. Not to be confused with emphysema, IPF isn't found to be mostly caused by smoking.

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  • AMSR at National Jewish with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Patients

    John More gave a presentation on the benefits of using portable oxygen concentrators to a support group for patients who suffer from IPC (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) at National Jewish. He took the time to explain the differences between units, and how each unit has its own specialties. He really made sure that the patients understood the differences in technologies such as what the true differences were between pulse flow and continuous flow to ensure they understood their own oxygen needs.

    While some patients had heard of, or were currently using POCs, others had only recently been diagnosed and where learning about what their true options were for the very first time.

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  • Conditions that Oxygen Therapy is Used to Treat

    Usually, when you see someone using oxygen therapy, what comes to your mind? Many people associate oxygen tanks and concentrators with someone who has a severe case of COPD (emphysema or chronic bronchitis), but this isn't always the case. There is a stigma over those who need to use oxygen – “He/She smoked too many cigarettes and now needs to use oxygen therapy.” Even if they need to use it because they have COPD, people shouldn't be so judgmental. There are several other reasons someone may be using an oxygen concentrator.

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  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation “Use it or lose it?"

    Of all the forms of rehabilitation that are available in medicine, pulmonary rehabilitation is a relative newcomer. For example Cardiac Rehabilitation has been available to patients with cardiac disease since at least the 1940’s. Actually exercising for 30 minutes a day for 6 months was prescribed by a Dr. William Heberden for his cardiac patient’s way back in 1772. Staying with Cardiac Rehab for a moment, the term “Myocardial Infarction” a heart attack in layman’s terms was first used in 1912. About that time it was thought that the damaged heart muscle needed time to heal completely. Therefore 6 weeks of bed rest was the order of the day, with stair climbing prohibited for a full year after the MI!

    In the 1930’s an incredible 80% of post heart attack patients were on full disability. In the 1940’s hospitals began to develop “cardiac work evaluation units” to evaluate a patient’s ability to go back to work. These evolved into the modern Cardiac Rehabilitation programs. During and following WW2 manpower needs spurred cardiologists to review the need for absolute bed rest following cardiac events. Well designed studies proved that long term bed rest decreased functional capacity, sapped morale, and caused its own set of complications.

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  • Symptoms & Treatment of Pulmonary Vascular Disease

    As we mentioned in the previous post, pulmonary vascular disease is not a single disease, but rather a group of disorders affecting the blood flow to or from the lungs.

    Regardless of which specific disorder is occurring, the symptoms can vary depending on the suddenness of the process, which vessels are affected, and how much of the pulmonary vascular system is affected.  For example, a sudden, large, pulmonary embolism that blocks a large artery can cause sever shortness of breath and chest pain.  On the other hand, a small pulmonary embolism that blocks only a small blood vessel may not cause any noticeable symptoms.

    Below is a brief discussion of the symptoms for some of the pulmonary vascular diseases.  This overview is not meant to be used for diagnosis.  If you or someone you know is concerned about a potential lung problem, they should see a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis.

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  • Pulmonary Vascular Diseases

    Pulmonary vascular disease is a term for a disease affecting the blood vessels leading to or from the lungs.  It refers to a category of disorders.  Below is some basic information about the major types of pulmonary vascular disease.

    Pulmonary embolism is when the blood flow through the lung’s artery is suddenly blocked by a blood clot that traveled from the leg, pelvis, or other deep vein.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, fainting, and a rapid heart rate.  A pulmonary embolism can damage the heart or cause death.  It can be prevented by drugs that break up blood clots, proper exercise and physical activity, compression socks, and pneumatic compression.

    Chronic thromboembolic disease is a condition where old blood clots remain in the lung’s arteries instead of being absorbed by the body. It can cause the person’s blood pressure to get dangerously high, causing stress on the heart and other complications including pulmonary arterial hypertension.  It often progresses gradually, causing small blood vessels in the lungs to become diseased until a large part of the pulmonary arterial system is affected.

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  • What is Pulmonary Fibrosis? Pulmonary Fibrosis Overview, Symptoms and Treatment

    Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that affects about 200,000 Americans according to the American Thoracic Society. In pulmonary fibrosis, the tissues inside the lungs—the airways and alveoli, or air sacs—become scarred and stiff. This stiffness means the airways cannot contract and expand as easily when taking in air, and cellular damage within the alveoli (air sacs) does not allow oxygen to pass as easily to the bloodstream, also impairing carbon dioxide from passed through as easily to be exhaled. This impairs the body’s ability to take in oxygen.

    It is suspected that an exaggeration of the healing response in the lungs is responsible for the scarring involved in pulmonary fibrosis; the excessive scar tissue thus may be an overreaction to a normal process, impairing the body’s ability to take in oxygen and making breathing more effortful.

    Pulmonary fibrosis most often develops between age 50 and 75. Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease in the family of interstitial lung diseases, which are diseases causing scarring in the lungs. Because the mechanics of the many diseases are similar, pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease may be used interchangeably by doctors and patients.

    Sometimes, the cause of pulmonary fibrosis can be identified—when it cannot, this is known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. A variety of factors may increase risk of pulmonary fibrosis includes inhaled toxins such as cigarette smoking and exposure to air pollutants, taking certain medicines, genetic factors, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, or acid reflux).

    Pulmonary fibrosis can develop quickly or slowly, and its progression can be difficult to predict. In most cases, the disease progresses quickly, sometimes resulting of shortness of breath even at rest. Conversely, some people may have a more slowly progressing form of the disease and may remain stable for years. Pulmonary fibrosis, in addition to the progressive nature of the disease, can also result in lung collapse, infection, blood clots, and lung cancer. Pulmonary hypertension, respiratory failure, and heart failure can also develop as a result.

    Pulmonary fibrosis has no known cure, and the life expectancy following diagnosis can vary widely based on the progression of the disease. The life expectancy following diagnosis is commonly 2-3 years, but maybe longer depending on the individual disease state. Often, no predictions on life expectancy can be made. By following proper treatment and with careful medical supervision, patients with pulmonary fibrosis may be able to extend the length of their life and improve their quality of life. Our next blog post will explore treatment options for pulmonary fibrosis, as well as the symptoms of this disease.

    Pulmonary Fibrosis: Symptoms and Treatments

    The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are caused by excessive scarring within the lungs, the hallmark feature of pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease. The scarring causes alveoli or air sacs, and airways to stiffen, resulting in the lungs being unable to deliver oxygen efficiently and effectively to the rest of the body.

    Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis

    Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis can range from person to person, and can include:

    • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
    • Rapid, shallow breathing
    • Dry, hacking cough
    • Gradual weight loss that is not intended
    • Fatigue or tiredness
    • Joint and muscle aches/pain
    • "Clubbing" or widening of tips of fingers—this is caused by chronic lack of oxygen in the body, but it is not fully understood.

    Diagnosing Pulmonary Fibrosis

    Because pulmonary fibrosis belongs to a family of related diseases, a thorough medical workup by a doctor is the only way to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis. The doctor will explore the patient’s medical and lifestyle history, and order tests such as x-rays and CT scans, breathing tests, lung biopsies, and blood tests. Sometimes, pulse oximetry, an echocardiogram (a heart test), arterial blood gas test, or exercise stress test may be done.

    Treating Pulmonary Fibrosis

    There is currently no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, though lung transplant may be an option for some individuals depending on their health. Treatments currently available cannot remove or repair scarring that has occurred in the lungs, and instead tries to prevent more scarring from developing. Clinical trials may help patients experience new treatment options and may provide better future treatments for pulmonary fibrosis.
    Treatment for pulmonary fibrosis includes:

    • Medicine:Most commonly, anti-inflammatory corticosteroids such as prednisone are used to treat the inflammation associated with pulmonary fibrosis scarring. Controversially, immune system suppressant medications are also used which can help prevent continued scarring which can extend the patient’s life—these are a matter of debate in the pulmonary medicine community. These medications do not work in all cases and may have serious side effects.
    • Oxygen Therapy: Supplemental oxygen delivered by nasal cannula can deliver higher concentrations of oxygen to the lungs, helping patients breathe easier by compensating for scarred, damaged lungs. By providing adequate oxygen, work of breathing is reduced, thus reducing symptoms of shortness of breath and encouraging active living.
    • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Learning how to manage lung disease like pulmonary fibrosis is important to regain function for daily activities. Participants learn how to exercise, may learn about nutrition, and gain an understanding of their disease—they may also receive counseling or peer support.
    • Lung transplant: For those under 65 in generally good health, lung transplantation can be considered, which can significantly improve quality of life.

    Patients with pulmonary fibrosis can take an active role in staying healthy. In addition to the above, patients should take medications as directed by their doctor as well as adhering to all prescribed therapies and activities. Practicing other healthy behaviors such as getting a flu shot, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, staying active, and consuming nutritious foods and a balanced diet can all help promote well-being, even with pulmonary fibrosis.

    To learn more about pulmonary fibrosis, visit:

    Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about pulmonary fibrosis, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

    Page last updated: December 12, 2018


  • Symptoms and Treatment of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

    Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPV) is a deadly disease, with a 35% fatality rate, that comes from exposure to diseased rodents, their droppings, their urine, or their saliva. The infection attacks the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and, in a third of cases, leads to death by respiratory failure.

    Symptoms develop 1-5 weeks after exposure to the rodent’s infection. Most individuals will not know, at first, that something is seriously wrong.

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  • What is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

    A rare and dangerous disease, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) comes from exposure to diseased rodents, their droppings, or other bodily secretions. In 1993, the year this disease first came to the attention of the U.S., there was a strange illness occurring in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

    The disease was occurring primarily in rural areas and was considered a mystery illness for a time. Eventually, it was identified as a disease that came from infected rodents and was named Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

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