Pulmonary fibrosis or lung fibrosis is a chronic condition characterised by the thickening and scarring of lung tissue. This can lead to difficulty breathing and a decreased ability to oxygenate the blood.
There are many possible causes of lung fibrosis, including infection, exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, and autoimmune disease. Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy.
Lung fibrosis is a serious medical condition that can lead to a variety of symptoms. While diagnosing lung fibrosis, we scan for the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Aching of joints and muscles
- Dry cough
- Widening of toes or fingers (clubbing)
- Unexplained fatigue despite no lack of sleep
- White or grey skin around the eyes or mouth (in dark-skinned people) and bluish skin (in fair-skinned patients). This is also known as cyanosis.
Both cyanosis and clubbing are advanced lung fibrosis symptoms that need immediate medical attention. In severe cases, pulmonary fibrosis can be fatal.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a collective name given to over 200 interstitial lung diseases (ILDs). All these diseases have one thing in common, i.e., scarring of lung tissue, and they are progressive in nature.
Based on what is causing lung fibrosis, it is broadly classified into the following categories:
|Type of Pulmonary Fibrosis||Description|
|Drug-induced||Exposure to chemotherapy or drugs such as methotrexate, nitrofurantoin, and amiodarone|
|Radiation-induced||Ongoing or previous radiation treatment to the chest|
|Environmental (also called hypersensitivity pneumonitis)||Exposure to animals, mould, and other triggers|
|Autoimmune||Dry eyes or mouth, joint inflammation, skin changes|
|Occupational (also called pneumoconiosis)||Exposure to silica, coal, asbestos, dust, or fumes that can cause lung fibrosis|
|Idiopathic||No cause identified|
When doctors cannot identify any lung fibrosis causes, the condition is classified as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Some studies have shown that there may be a genetic component to the disease, while others have not been able to confirm this. It is possible that lung fibrosis may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Those having family members with lung fibrosis must get tested. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to managing the condition.
Besides evaluating the patient’s medical history, our doctors will conduct a physical exam to check for symptoms of lung fibrosis. Apart from that, we may order the following tests to confirm a lung fibrosis diagnosis:
- Imaging tests: These tests may include a CT scan or chest X-ray to detect pulmonary fibrosis. Imaging tests can help reveal the scarring of lung tissue.
- Blood tests: A complete blood test is a standard procedure recommended to determine the possible causes of the condition. Blood tests also help track the progression of lung fibrosis.
- Biopsy: This involves removing a small sample of lung tissue to confirm a lung fibrosis diagnosis. The tissue is removed by making a small incision in the patient’s ribs.
- Oxygen desaturation study: We use this test to determine patients’ blood oxygen levels.
- Breathing tests: Also known as pulmonary function tests, these allow us to understand how well the lungs are functioning.
There is currently no known cure for lung fibrosis, and it cannot be reversed. However, certain treatments can help improve symptoms and quality of life.
Listed below are the possible lung fibrosis treatment options:
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: It is a type of therapy that can help patients with lung fibrosis breathe easier and improve their quality of life. The therapy can include exercise, education, and counselling. The program is typically led by a respiratory therapist and may include a team of other health care professionals such as a pulmonologist, exercise physiologist, and dietician.
- Medication: Besides pulmonary rehabilitation, we prescribe certain medications to slow down the progression of lung fibrosis. Patients must, however, never self-medicate under any circumstances.
- Oxygen therapy: This therapy involves breathing in pure oxygen through a mask or a tube. It can help improve the function of the lungs and slow down further damage.
- Lung transplant: Pulmonary fibrosis is a devastating lung disease that slowly robs patients of their ability to breathe. A lung transplant is often the only hope for patients with this disease. The transplant process is complex and risky, and not everyone is a candidate for it. So, it is important to discuss all lung fibrosis treatment options with our doctors.
Unfortunately, one cannot prevent certain types of lung fibrosis. However, people can avoid some risk factors to prevent the scarring of lung tissue or slow its progression.
For example, quitting smoking is one of the best ways individuals can reduce their risk. Additionally, avoiding exposure to airborne irritants, such as dust and chemicals, can help prevent environmental lung fibrosis.
People with a family history of pulmonary fibrosis may be at a higher risk for developing the condition. In this case, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to see a doctor.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a debilitating and often deadly lung disease. There is no cure for lung fibrosis, and treatments are limited. However, research is ongoing, and there is hope that new treatments will be developed to improve the quality of life.
In the meantime, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of lung fibrosis and to seek medical help if you or a loved one is diagnosed with the disease.
Visit the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Pulmonologist Dr Kuldeep Grover to avail of the proper diagnosis and best treatment for lung fibrosis. We have a dedicated team of experienced pulmonologists who work round-the-clock to provide the best treatment and care using state-of-the-art healthcare facilities.