Pulmonary fibrosis – How Is it Detected and Treated

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is an interstitial lung disease in which the patient’s lungs get scarred. Because of it, the breathing ability of the patient goes down.The tissues in the lungs become stiff and thick, which further restrict oxygen from passing through the air sac walls into the patient’s bloodstream. Moreover, the damage to lungs that is already caused due to PF cannot be reversed. Thus, the condition may only worsen with time. While there is no exact cure for this disease, there are new treatments available to slow down the impact, once the problem is detected.

The causes of pulmonary fibrosis are unknown in most cases. While there may be different causes of it, certain things aggravate the risk of developing this disease. For instance, smoking cigarettes, using certain medicines or facing some viral infections may lead to PF. It may also occur due to genetic factors, exposure to environmental toxins or pollutants, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.Apart from shortness of breath, other symptoms displaying the possibility of PF include a dry cough, tiredness, irregular breathing, clubbing of fingertips or toes, and paining muscles and joints.

Detection of pulmonary fibrosis: Following are some ways in which specialists will detect problems related to pulmonary fibrosis:

  • Physical check and medical history: A physical examination of the patient may be done. The specialist doctor also considers the family’s medical history as well as the patient’s history of medication and smoking habit. The specialist additionally collects information on the possibility of exposure to an environment filled with pollutants or lung irritants. They even learn about the patient’s hobbies and lifestyle to gather such information.
  • Medical tests: Several types of medical tests can reveal more about the presence of pulmonary fibrosis.
  • The specialists may perform a chest X-ray or a breathing test. That lets them know the extent of damage the patient’s lungs have faced.
  • Some blood tests may be conducted to detect the disease. These tests check the level of oxygen in one’s bloodstream as well as any infections or autoimmune disease.
  • High-resolution chest scans or CT scans may be conducted.
  • Tests via exercise are used to detect the way a patient’s lungs allow the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
  • If CT scan does not help in diagnosis, then the specialists may even conduct lung biopsy, which is a surgical procedure to assess the status of lung tissues.

Treatment of pulmonary fibrosis

  • Although there is no definite cure for this disease, some treatments may help in slowing down its course and letting patients live more healthily. Following are a few of these treatments that specialists adapt to treat and support PF patients so they may maintain an active lifestyle:
  • Medication: The specialist is the only person who can recommend the right medication in some instances of pulmonary fibrosis. Some of the patients may not benefit from taking medicines, but a few may be helped through corticosteroids and other types of drugs the doctor may find suitable per their condition. These medicines are mostly given to reduce inflammation, supply antioxidants, and suppress the immune system of the body. As some of the medicines may have serious side effects, the doctors usually prescribe them for a short period.
  • Oxygen therapy: This therapy is given if the amount of oxygen goes down in the bloodstream. The therapy helps in controlling the shortness of breath in patients. The frequency of oxygen therapy also depends on the condition of a patient.
  • Other treatments: A few treatments are related to the prevention of the likely causes of pulmonary fibrosis. For instance, flu or pneumonia vaccine may help in preventing infections, and cough medicine may help in preventing coughing. Similarly, anti-reflux therapy helps when the patient has gastroesophageal reflux disease.Patients may also be given bone-building supplements.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: If the disease is in a chronic condition, the patient may be given complete guidance and instructions on the way they can control it as well as do exercises to manage it and stay functional.
  • Lung transplant: In some cases, specialists may decide on a lung transplant, if the condition of lungs of a patient is severe. However, the patient must otherwise have no serious disease and be willing to bear any negative consequences.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis may start from shortness of breath but may lead to serious issues like lung infections, pulmonary hypertension, and even lung or heart failure. If a specialist makes a proper diagnosis, the patient can be given the right therapy, medication, counseling, and other treatment to contain it.

Find a doctor