Pulmonary Fibrosis | Symptoms | Causes | Risk Factors | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention
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Pulmonary Fibrosis - Symptoms, Causes , Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Published on Aug 21, 2020 and last reviewed on Nov 11, 2022   -  5 min read


Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disorder that results in scarring. Read this article to know more about the condition, symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What Is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung illness that happens when lung tissue tends to be harmed and scarred. This thickened, firm tissue makes it more troublesome for your lungs to work appropriately. As pulmonary fibrosis worsens, more shortness of breath occurs. The scarring related to pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by a large number of factors. The lung dysfunction caused by pulmonary fibrosis cannot be brought back to normal, but treatments can now and then offer assistance to ease side effects and make strides in the quality of life. For a few individuals, a lung transplant can be appropriate.

What Are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis might sometimes occur without any symptoms. The common symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath. It is typically the first symptom that might develop.

  • Prolonged cough.

  • Weakness.

  • Fatigue and tiredness.

  • Clubbing. This is the enlargement and curvature seen in the fingernails.

  • Weight loss.

  • Discomfort in the chest.

The condition is known to hit older adults first. Your symptoms may seem minor at first. It might progress over time. The symptoms can vary from one person to another. Some patients with pulmonary fibrosis become severely ill.

What Causes Pulmonary Fibrosis?

The causes of pulmonary fibrosis can be understood under several categories:

  1. Autoimmune Diseases:

These illnesses cause your body’s resistant framework to assault itself. Immune system conditions that can lead to pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • Lupus erythematosus.

  • Scleroderma.

Pulmonary fibrosis may be a result of a variety of infections.

  • Bacterial infections.

  • Viral infections.

  • Hepatitis C.

  • Herpes virus.

  • Adenovirus.

3.Environmental Exposure:

If a person is exposed to a wide variety of things within the environment and working space, those things can contribute to pulmonary fibrosis. For instance, cigarette smoke contains numerous chemicals that can harm your lungs.

Other materials that can damage your lungs include:

  • Asbestos fibers.

  • Specific gases.

  • Silica dust.

  • Radiation.

  • Grain dust.4.Medications:

Some medications may also increase your risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis. If you take these medications on a regular basis, you may require close monitoring by your doctor.

  • Antibiotics such as Nitrofurantoin and Sulfasalazine.

  • Chemotherapy drugs, such as Cyclophosphamide.

  • Cardiac drugs, such as Amiodarone.


In numerous cases, the precise cause of pulmonary fibrosis is unknown. In unknown cases, the condition is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).


Few studies show that some genes are responsible for this condition. But still, research is going on regarding the role of genetics in pulmonary fibrosis.

What Are the Risk Factors?

The risk increases in the following conditions:

  • Male.

  • Family history of the condition.

  • History of smoking.

  • The age group of 40-70 years.

  • It has an autoimmune disorder associated with the condition.

  • Medications associated with this disease.

  • Undergone treatment for cancer.

  • Exposure of chest to radiation.

  • Occupational hazards to people working in a high-risk area, such as mining and construction.

What Are the Complications?

Complications of pulmonary fibrosis might include:

  • Pulmonary Hypertension: This condition affects only the arteries in your lungs. This raises the pressure within the pulmonary arteries. Some forms of pulmonary hypertension become very worse.

  • Right-Sided Heart Failure (Cor Pulmonale): This serious condition occurs when your lower right chamber of the heart has to pump harder than usual.

  • Respiratory Failure: This is often the chronic stage of lung disease. It occurs when oxygen levels in the blood fall dangerously low.

  • Lung Cancer: Long-standing pulmonary fibrosis develops the risk of lung cancer.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Someone With Pulmonary Fibrosis?

The average life expectancy of patients with pulmonary fibrosis may be three to five years after diagnosis. Early detection of this condition is the way to slow the progression. The rate at which pulmonary fibrosis affects people’s life might vary.

How Is Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosed?

Pulmonary fibrosis is a common type of lung disease that exists. It is often misdiagnosed as asthma, pneumonia, or bronchitis. There are several methods for performing a biopsy. So you will need to get help from your doctor, and they will recommend the best procedure for you.

Your doctor may also use a variety of other tools to properly diagnose pulmonary fibrosis, and to rule out other conditions. These may include:

  • Pulse oximetry. It is a noninvasive test to check your blood oxygen levels.

  • Blood tests are done to check for autoimmune diseases, infections, and anemia.

  • The arterial blood gas test can be used to assess the levels of oxygen in your blood more accurately.

  • A sputum sample can be used to check for signs of infection.

  • A pulmonary function test is used to measure your lung capacity.

  • An echocardiogram or cardiac stress test is used to see if a heart problem is causing any of the symptoms.

  • In cases when the diagnosis is not known, a tissue sample, or biopsy, should be taken.

  • By combining your clinical details and the results of a specific kind of CT scan of the chest, your doctor will be able to diagnose you more accurately.

How Is Pulmonary Fibrosis Treated?

Your specialist cannot turn around the lung scarring, but they can prescribe medicines to assist in the progress of your breathing and to slow the progression of the disease. The medicines underneath are a few illustrations of current choices utilized for overseeing pulmonary fibrosis.

  • Supplemental oxygen.

  • Prednisone suppresses the immune reaction and helps in lessening the inflammation.

  • Azathioprine is given to fight against your resistant system.

Your doctor may also encourage you to make a few lifestyle changes. They are:

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Follow an exercise plan that is developed with your doctor’s guidance.

  • Get adequate rest.

  • Avoid excess stress.

A lung transplant may be recommended for patients aged over 65 with severe disease. Your doctor may also recommend you for pulmonary rehabilitation. This treatment plan involves a program of exercise, education, and support. This will help you to breathe more easily.

What Are the Tips for Prevention?

A few cases of pulmonary fibrosis may not be preventable. Other cases are connected to natural and behavioral hazard components that can be controlled. Follow these tips to lower your chance of getting the disease:

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Wear a face mask if you are working in an environment with harmful chemicals.

If you have inconvenience breathing, make an appointment with your specialist. Early determination and treatment can eliminate the long term effects of an individual with numerous infections in the lung, including pulmonary fibrosis.

For more details and discussion about the condition, call a doctor online.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Diagnostic Criteria for Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Diagnosis for pulmonary fibrosis is based on medical and family history and also checks for signs and symptoms. Physical examination is carried out with a stethoscope to listen to the breathing pattern carefully. Other tests include:
- Imaging tests like chest X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and echocardiogram.
- Lung function tests like pulmonary function testing, exercise stress test, arterial blood gas test, and pulse oximetry.
- Collecting tissue samples (biopsy).


What Causes Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis occurs when the tissue around the lungs and between the air sacs gets scars and thickens, causing it difficult for oxygen to pass into the bloodstream. Many things can contribute to pulmonary fibrosis, but the cause remains unknown in most cases. The factors that contribute to pulmonary fibrosis are smoking, old age, hereditary, working around dust or fumes, cancer treatment, and medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and viral infection.


What Drugs Cause Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Many medications can cause pulmonary fibrosis. Chemotherapy drugs like Bleomycin, Amiodarone (drugs used to treat abnormal heart rhythms), Methotrexate (drugs used to treat inflammatory conditions), and Nitrofurantoin (an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections) are some common drugs known drugs to cause pulmonary fibrosis. However, several other drugs have been found to cause pulmonary fibrosis in some cases, but the cause of occurrence is not clear.


Is It Possible to Treat Pulmonary Fibrosis?

There is no permanent cure available for pulmonary fibrosis. But many researchers are working around the world for a permanent cure for fibrosis. However, healthcare professionals help to relieve the symptoms and delay the progress of the diseases.


What Is Stage 1 Pulmonary Fibrosis?

There is no specific staging system for pulmonary fibrosis. Healthcare professionals use different factors, like symptoms, lung function tests, six-minute walk tests, and high-resolution CT scans, and describe the disease as mild, moderate, severe, or very severe pulmonary fibrosis.


At What Ages Does Pulmonary Fibrosis Occur?

Pulmonary fibrosis develops in the second half of life, that is, between ages 50 and 70. Men are more affected than women. However, factors like environment, occupation, radiation treatment, medications, and medical conditions also play a role in the onset of pulmonary fibrosis.


What Is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious lung disease that causes lung damage and scarring. The scarring makes the lung tissues thick and stiff making it more difficult for the lungs to work properly. As the condition progresses and worsens, breathing will become very difficult. There is no cure for this condition.


Is Walking Advisable for Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Walking or exercise is important for maintaining physical and mental well-being and makes a person more energetic, and helps to manage pulmonary fibrosis. Exercise can also improve the overall quality of life. If performed every day, the shortness of breath will be less.


Is It Possible to Detect Pulmonary Fibrosis in a Blood Test?

The arterial blood gas test is a test for detecting pulmonary fibrosis. Healthcare professionals draw a sample of blood. Usually, blood is collected from an artery in the wrist. The sample is then sent to a laboratory where the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are measured.


Can Stress Cause Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Stress will lead to the secretion of TGF beta one and a low grade of inflammation. TGF beta 1 is one of the main factors that drive pulmonary fibrosis. Also, the sympathetic nervous system activation can release cytokines, which is a TGF Beta 1 leading to pulmonary fibrosis.


Does Fibrosis Cause Slow Death?

Healthcare providers usually consider pulmonary fibrosis a terminal illness. The people affected are largely over 65 years old and mostly male predominance. Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. Also, there is no cure, and it eventually leads to death.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
11 Nov 2022  -  5 min read




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