Without the appropriate amount of oxygen, it becomes more difficult to physically exert yourself. Eventually, it may become too difficult to perform simple daily tasks, like walking or standing, without losing your breath.
Pulmonary fibrosis is incurable, so the goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and reduce the severity of its symptoms. It’s important to know the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, so you can catch it early on for optimal medical assistance.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis is an idiopathic disease, which means its exact cause is difficult to identify. As a result, its symptoms may be sporadic. They can develop slowly or quickly, and they do not always develop in the same order between patients.
The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:
- Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity
- Persistent dry cough
- Aching of the joints
- Uncontrollable weight loss
- Clubbed fingertips and toes
Regardless of the order of these symptoms, when you begin to notice them, you should seek medical assistance.
What are the causes of pulmonary fibrosis?
As mentioned before, pulmonary fibrosis is an idiopathic disease, so its exact causes are not always identifiable. The disease tends to be an overreaction of the immune system to a perceived threat, which can include many factors like cigarette smoke or viral infection.
Pulmonary fibrosis is more common among patients over the age of 50. It may also run genetically in families.
The following are known to be associated with the development of pulmonary fibrosis:
- Dusty environments, including silica, coal dust and granite dust
- Working around chemicals, asbestos and other toxins
- Radiation treatment to the chest
- Bad reaction to certain medications
Pulmonary fibrosis is also known to be caused by pre-existing medical conditions, such as pneumonia, arthritis and sarcoidosis. If you already have a chronic medical condition and you begin experiencing the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, you should contact your primary care provider.
How is pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed?
Your physician will perform a thorough examination to identify pulmonary fibrosis and to develop a treatment. This will include a review of your medical history and some questions about your health, wellbeing, lifestyle and any smoking habits you may have incurred in your life.Furthermore, part of an accurate diagnosis may include some of the following tests:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary function test
- Blood-gas analysis
How is pulmonary fibrosis treated?
Since pulmonary fibrosis is not a curable disease, the goal of treatment is to improve your ability to breathe and to impede the progression of the disease. Depending on the severity of the condition, your age and your overall health and wellbeing, your treatment may include the following:
- Medications – this may include medications to assist with reducing inflammation and help open the airways to allow in more oxygen
- Oxygen therapy – Supplemental oxygen may improve your ability to breathe throughout the day. It may be necessary to undergo oxygen therapy multiple times a day or throughout the entire day.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – Exercising, nutritional guidance and counseling can help patients manage their symptoms and assist with breathing clearly
Can pulmonary fibrosis be prevented?
As pulmonary fibrosis is an idiopathic disease with various causes, there is no clear-cut method of prevention. However, limiting your exposure to agents that cause irritation to your lungs will help reduce your chances of developing the disease.
If you are a smoker, you should quit smoking now. Quitting alone may be all that is necessary, in some cases, to inhibit the progression of pulmonary fibrosis.
If you work in environments with a lot of dust, chemicals, asbestos or smoke, you should follow proper safety measures and wear proper safety equipment.
You should also get regular flu vaccinations and practice good hygiene. These will help prevent germs from entering your body and causing irritation that could lead to pulmonary fibrosis.
It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet. Your lungs require nutrition found in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Eating well can help keep your lungs strong and healthy, so they are better prepared to manage inflammation and infection.
Are you ready to speak to a patient coordinator at the Lung Health Institute about treatment for your pulmonary fibrosis? Contact us today to schedule your free consultation to discover the treatment options we may have for you.