Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a rare condition in which lung tissues become scarred, thick and stiff. Specifically, the walls of the air sacs in your lungs can become thickened resulting in a chronic cough, shortness of breath, feeling tired and low oxygen levels in your body.
In most cases, a cause for the condition is not known. Some experts believe a genetic component may exist because PF can run in families. Other causes can include exposure to inhaled chemicals such as asbestos, grain dust and silica. Exposure to bird droppings and certain medical conditions can also lead to PF. Individuals with Lupus, Scleroderma, Sarcoidosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis and those who smoke or formerly smoked are at higher risk of developing PF.
Symptoms of PF include a dry cough and becoming short of breath with activity. Unintentional weight loss, fatigue and muscle aches can also occur.
Diagnosis is made by listening to your lungs for abnormal sounds, a pulmonary function test (breathing test) may be performed to assess your lung function along with oximetry (device placed on your finger) to determine the level of oxygen in your blood. Other testing can include chest x-ray, CT scan of your chest, echocardiogram (ultrasound of your heart) and a lung biopsy to confirm PF.
Treatment for PF is aimed at managing symptoms; no cure exists for PF. Medications to decrease inflammation may be used and/or medication specifically developed to slow the progression of the disease. Some individuals may require supplemental oxygen therapy if oxygen levels in the blood are low and in some cases lung transplant is recommended. Your physician will discuss your specific condition and health status to determine the best course of treatment for you.