Pulmonary fibrosis

The disease Pulmonary Fibrosis is very serious. This disease causes progressive scarring of the lung tissue. When the small air sacs in the lungs are damaged, the structures surrounding them become inflamed and scarred. This scarring can progress to the point of causing stiff lungs. Naturally, our lungs heal when they come into contact with infection or something that is damaging to them. However, pulmonary fibrosis causes the lungs to heal abnormally, which results in the build-up of scar tissue. When the lungs get thick from the scarring they are unable to expand appropriately and cannot fill completely with air. This causes the person with the condition to be short of breath and unable to breathe enough oxygen. Without our lungs taking in oxygen, the blood then cannot receive the oxygen it needs to carry throughout the body.

Although no one knows the exact cause for the disease, it is suspected that environmental factors may play an important role. Those who work in career fields that expose them to polluted air are at a much greater risk for developing the condition. Exposure to dust, metal, coal or wood particles are extremely dangerous. For those that work in a job involving the breathing of these particles, the lungs are damaged repeatedly. Other possible risk factors that may contribute to pulmonary fibrosis may be certain medications, smoking, connective tissue diseases, chemotherapy, radiation, and some autoimmune disorders. About 10-15% of patients with the disease have a genetic predisposition for the disease. Other possibilities include having a bacterial or viral lung infection that left the lungs damaged or acid reflux disease.

The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are usually gradual and include shortness of breath, dry coughing often coming in spasms, unintended weight loss, weakness, fatigue, enlargement of the tips of fingers or toes, and chest discomfort. Having pulmonary fibrosis can greatly impact the quality of life for the patient, however there are several treatments being researched to help those live a more comfortable life. As of now, some of the things that are being done for patients include oxygen therapy and the use of corticosteroids and cytotoxic drugs. Unfortunately, none of these will cure the condition they may help slow the process of the lungs from scarring. Corticosteroids and cytotoxic drugs are used to help minimize the lungs inflammation. This may work for a short amount of time but they are usually not beneficial long term. Most patients benefit from the use of oxygen therapy. Oxygen can come in many different forms and some oxygen tanks are designed for use outside the home so the person is not limited to where they may go. Resting is essential in those that suffer from the disease since the more exerts themselves the harder it will become to breathe.

For patients that are otherwise young and healthy, the possibility of having a lung transplant may be hopeful. There have been cases where a patient who has pulmonary fibrosis and has become oxygen dependant have had successful unilateral lung transplant surgery and had remarkable recovery. These patients were able to leave the hospital after a few short weeks and there lung volume gradually rose back up to the level in which it should be. They were able to carry on a normal life once again. This outcome is never promised and each individual case must be treated and evaluated differently.

When you have a lung condition it is important to find the right doctor for your case. Make sure that your doctor is well versed in pulmonary fibrosis as well as other diseases affecting the lungs. Misdiagnosis is a common mistake regarding lung diseases since they can all have similar symptoms.

Last updated on Jul 21st, 2009 and filed under Respiratory Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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