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What You Should Know About Pulmonary Fibrosis

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Have you heard of pulmonary fibrosis? If you answered no, you are not alone.

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a progressive and debilitating disease that leads to scarring of the lungs, which has no known cure and affects both men and women. More than 200,000 Americans are living with the disease and, unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the causes, treatments, diagnosis and more.

PF is a largely unknown lung disease:

While over 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, awareness of PF remains very low. According to a recent survey conducted by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF), 86% of Americans do not know the symptoms of PF, which include shortness of breath, fatigue and a dry, persistent cough.

Even though PF has been mentioned in the news lately as a complication of COVID-19, many remain unaware of PF as a distinct disease entity or of PF signs and symptoms. If patients are better educated on specific PF symptoms, a diagnosis can occur sooner, which may lead to improved outcomes.

PF is difficult to diagnose:

It can be hard to diagnose PF because the symptoms of persistent cough, fatigue and shortness of breath are similar to those of other illnesses and can appear mild or absent early in the disease stage. Other common symptoms of PF include:

● Weakness
● Discomfort in the chest
● Loss of appetite
● Unexplained weight loss

Awareness of these early warning signs is vital to prompt diagnosis. If you are experiencing symptoms, keep a list of them and consult your doctor.

There are many types of PF that have known causes:

While there are types of PF that don’t have a known cause, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), many do. PF with known causes include:

● Those related to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.
● Those related to occupational exposures, such as asbestos.
● Those related to environmental exposures, such as molds and birds, referred to as hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
● Those directly related to smoking.
● Certain medications and radiation therapy can also cause PF.

Other factors that put millions of Americans at higher risk for PF include being over the age of 60 and people with a family history of interstitial lung disease.

There are treatments for PF:

While it is true that there is no known cure for PF, there are a number of effective treatments.

● Supportive care treatments such as supplemental oxygen, medication and pulmonary rehabilitation, can lessen symptoms of cough, shortness of breath or fatigue.
● For some types of PF, there are medications called “antifibrotics” that can slow down disease progression by about 50% on average.
● Lung transplantation is a treatment option for advanced PF and is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Although a treatment is not a cure, these treatments can be very helpful for PF patients. Finding a cure continues to be the ultimate goal for the PFF and banding together to raise awareness for PF is a piece of the puzzle to finally finding it.

Knowing the facts about PF will help promote understanding of this devastating disease, raise funds for vital research, lead to better treatments and ultimately to find a cure.

For more information about pulmonary fibrosis, please visit

Photo via Getty images.

Originally published: November 10, 2020
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