This is a type of lung disease. It is the result of scarring or fibrosis of the lungs. As regards to its reason of scarring, scientists are still uncovering it.
When the scarring gets worst, it becomes harder for you to take a deep breath. And when deep breathing becomes difficult, your lungs can no longer take sufficient oxygen, making it more difficult for you to breathe.
IPF (Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) is a type of interstitial lung disease. It involves the tissue and the space around the lungs’ air sacs or commonly known as interstitium. It does not directly affect the blood vessels or the airways.
There are different kinds of interstitial lung disease and IPF is one of them. Each kind is treated differently. For that reason, patients are encouraged to consult a medical doctor to determine whether or not they have an IPF or another type of interstitial lung disease.
What are the possible causes of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis?
Unfortunately, up to now, the root cause of this disease is not yet fully understood.
There are several medical studies that have been conducted, but nothing could help in determining the real cause of this condition and why some people are suffering from it.
Because its nature is not completely understood, the term “idiopathic” is added to the pulmonary fibrosis.
Despite the fact that the real cause of this disease is not known yet, there are common risk factors. One of them is genetics.
Studies showed that up to 20% of people with this condition have a family member who is also suffering from it.
If there is more than one member of your family who has this condition, it is called familial pulmonary fibrosis.
Everyone knows how dangerous smoking is to the lungs. The majority of the sufferers have previously smoked or are currently smoking.
That said, if you have the habit of cigarette smoking, you might want to consider avoiding or quitting now.
Most of the sufferers of this disease also have this condition. In fact, it is considered as one of the symptoms.
Gender and age
Almost 75 percent of patients with this condition are males. And the majority of them are over 50 years old.
What symptoms do you need to know about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis?
There are several symptoms of IPF, but the two most common causes are breathlessness and chronic cough.
Dyspnea or shortness of breath
This usually occurs during exercise. It can greatly affect your day-to-day activities, like getting dressed and eating.
And when your symptoms are not treated immediately, the scarring could get worse causing you to avoid all activities that could make it difficult for you to breathe.
The majority of sufferers have a chronic cough that could last longer than two months or eight weeks. Most of the time, the cough is dry. However, there are patients who reported that their cough involves sputum or phlegm.
What other symptoms you must remember?
Besides a chronic cough and dyspnea, other symptoms of IPF will include chest pain, unexplained weight loss, loss of energy, changes in the shape of your fingers, and loss of appetite.
How is this condition diagnosed?
Apart from the fact that its real cause is not known yet, it is also difficult for it to diagnose. The reason for this is that its common symptoms are almost the same as other lung diseases. Even if you undergo an x-ray, the result may still point to another lung disease.
That said, it is necessary that you consult more than one specialist. You must see a respirologist or pulmonologist to help in diagnosing your condition.
There is no single test that can conclude that you have this condition. However, there are common tests that your doctor will prescribe to help him/her in properly diagnosing your disease.
Among the many medical tests to diagnose IPF will include PFT or breathing test, chest x-ray, blood tests, six-minute walk test, CT scan, and bronchoscopy. And if you have an unclear diagnosis, your doctor may perform a surgical lung biopsy. To do this, you will have to be under general anesthetic.
What of the treatment?
IPF is truly a complicated condition. Apart from the fact that it is difficult to diagnose and its real cause is not yet fully understood, this condition has no cure yet. That said, there are no medicines or medical procedures that can actually remove the scarring in your lungs.
The treatments that your doctor may prescribe will only slow down the progression of the scarring. They may or may not reduce the symptoms. Some medicines are prescribed, too. However, some patients cannot take them because of their severe side effects.
There are also medicines that can improve the other symptoms of IPF, such as the acid reflux. In this symptom, the doctor will prescribe an anti-acid therapy. For your shortness of breath, your doctor may recommend opioids, which are categorized as morphine.
Other treatments may include pulmonary rehab, oxygen and lung transplant.
Change in your lifestyle
This complicated disease is irreversible and it is progressive. For that reason, it is essential that you start making a lifestyle change.
How to get started? Simple. You must quit smoking. This may not cure your condition, but it will slow down its progression. Then, it is necessary that you get a flu shot every year. Your doctor may also recommend having a pneumonia shot per year.
It is also a must that you stay as fit and healthy as possible. And never interact with patients suffering from colds and chest infections. Your condition may get worse.
This is common amongst smokers. It is a type of exercise designed for patients diagnosed with a lung disease. With this exercise, you can learn how to breathe more efficiently. In this way, you can carry out your daily activities with less breathlessness.
In terms of a lung transplant, it is not right for everyone, unfortunately. But for some people, it is the ideal treatment choice.
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