What is pulmonary fibrosis?
Lung scaring or pulmonary fibrosis is when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. Over time, the damaged areas of your lungs become thickened and stiff due to scar tissue and this makes it harder for oxygen to get from your lungs into your blood.
There are many possible causes for pulmonary fibrosis, including long-term exposure to toxic dust particles, certain medications, autoimmune diseases in which your immune system attacks your lungs, and radiotherapy.
Often the cause cannot be found, and the condition is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
The course of pulmonary fibrosis and severity of symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Often symptoms develop gradually over months to years. Occasionally, you may experience a rapid worsening of symptoms, which is termed an acute exacerbation.
A number of tests may be performed to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis, look for a cause, and determine the severity. These include:
Chest X-ray and CT scan
- Blood tests
- Pulmonary function tests
- Walk test to check your oxygen levels during activity
- Occasionally a biopsy of your lung
Treatments for pulmonary fibrosis may include:
- If symptoms are mild, often no treatment is required and we monitor you over time
- Medications to slow or reverse the scarring of your lungs
- Oxygen can sometimes help your breathing, if your oxygen levels are low
- Pulmonary rehabilitation, which is an exercise and support program for patients with lung disease
If your pulmonary fibrosis is mild, all that may be required is regular monitoring of your lung health to ensure you remain active and enjoying life to its fullest.
If your pulmonary fibrosis is very severe, and does not improve with medications, lung transplantation may be an option. However, transplantation is complicated and has significant risks.
How can we help you?
Our specialists at Lung and Sleep will take a detailed history and perform a thorough evaluation for the possible cause for your pulmonary fibrosis. This is important as there are different treatments for the different causes of pulmonary fibrosis.
We can advise you with regards to lung transplantation and if this may be of benefit to you. If so, we can arrange the appropriate assessment for you.
Our specialists at Lung and Sleep will devise a treatment plan that is most appropriate for your condition.