The lungs may be the most important organs in the human body.
These fragile organs are responsible for providing the oxygen we need to live. However, there are many things that can damage the lungs. People who suffer from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) for example struggle with their lungs.
This condition causes the lung tissue to become thick and stiff. This in turn ensures that the lungs are unable to properly expand and shrink to bring in air and expel carbon dioxide. As this chronic condition continues, the lungs can become permanently scarred. This scarring is called fibrosis. IPF can vary from person to person. Some people see it progress very slowly, while others find that it comes on strongly.
Causes of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
As mentioned this condition is caused by the lung tissue becoming thick and stiff, before forming scar tissue. But what causes the lungs to do this in the first place? Unfortunately, an exact cause can’t fully be pinpointed at this time. However, there are several factors which show an increased risk of IPF.
The first and most obvious risk factor is choosing to smoke. Smoking seems to be the number one risk factor for almost every possible lung disease. Another common risk factor is age. As people get older, it seems their propensity for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis increases. Most cases start in people over the age of 50, with it becoming most common after the age of 60. Family history can also be a large risk factor. People who have had another family member with IPF will find themselves more likely to be diagnosed with it as well. Specifically, it’s most common with first degree relatives. The final risk factor is gender. Men get IPF far more often than women do.
Symptoms of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
People are able to spot idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis with some level of ease. There are two many symptoms that show in almost every case. The first is a dry cough. This cough starts out mild, but continues to get worse. Eventually it becomes coughing fits you are unable to control. The second main symptom is shortness of breath. Like the coughing, this shortness of breath gets worse over time. It tends to start during periods of exercise, then expands through rest periods. There are also some other symptoms that sometimes can occur. These other symptoms include:
- Slow Paced Unintended Weight Loss
- Shallow Rapid Breathing
- Clubbing (Rounding and Widening of the Tips of Fingers and Toes)
- Aching Joints
- Aching Muscles
- General Feeling of Being Unwell
Treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for people with IPF. There are still treatments that can be performed in an effort to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from IPF. This treatment tends to start with medication. One group of medication options works to slow the decline of lung function and avoid the chance of symptoms flaring up painfully for a few days or weeks at a time. The second set of medications are those designed to treat GERD. This keeps stomach acid from getting into the lungs, which can make IPF even worse.
There are also other treatment methods which can help. Oxygen therapy can improve a person’s ability to exercise with IPF and decreases the general shortness of breath they feel. More severe cases can use ventilator support to help with their breathing. The final option for truly advanced cases of IPF is a full lung transplant. This is a risky transplant, and even when successful, medication will be needed for the remainder of a life to try to minimize the chance of the body rejecting the new lung.