When your lung tissue develops damage and scar tissue, it can impact how your lungs function. This lung scarring, which can have a number of causes, results in Pulmonary Fibrosis and can impact your ability to breathe.
Lung scarring can be caused by tobacco use, environmental pollutants like metal dust and chemical gases, some medications such as those used in chemotherapy treatments for cancer, and some viral infections. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid backs up into your throat, you can get small drops of that acid in your lungs and incur damage.
Some people are genetically at risk for pulmonary fibrosis. Talk to your doctor if you have a close family member with the disease.
If you have pulmonary fibrosis, you may find yourself struggling to take a full breath, especially when you exercise. Other symptoms include a dry cough, fast breathing to compensate for not being able to take a full breath, fatigue, aching muscles and unintended weight loss. Another tell-tale sign is clubbing, when the tips of your fingers and toes become rounder and wider.
Sometimes people with pulmonary fibrosis develop symptoms suddenly, but they usually develop slowly and worsen over time.
There is no treatment that can cure pulmonary fibrosis, but some medications can lessen symptoms and prevent additional scar tissue from forming. Temporary use of corticosteroids can reduce inflammation, but the side effects prevent long-term use.
Oxygen therapy may be a good option if you aren’t getting enough oxygen in your blood. You can use supplemental oxygen to help you function in your day-to-day life.
Severe cases of pulmonary fibrosis may require a complete lung transplant.