Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a disease of inflammation that results in scarring or fibrosis of the lungs. In time, this fibrosis can build up to the point where the lungs are unable to provide oxygen to the tissues of the body. Doctors use the work “Idiopathic” (from the greek “Idio” meaning “Peculiar” or “unusual” and “pathy” meaning “Illness”) to describe the disease because the cause of IPF is unknown. Currently researchers believe that IPF may result from either an autoimmune disorder, or condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, or the aftereffects of an infection, most likely a virus.
What are the symptoms of IPF ?
Early symptoms of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis are usually similar to those of other lung diseases. Very often, for example, patients suffer from a dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath). As the disease progresses, shortness of breathy becomes a major problem. Day to day activities such a climbing stairs, walking short distances, dressing, and even talking on the phone and eating becomes more difficult and sometimes nearly impossible. Enlargement (clubbing) of the fingertips may develop. The patient may also become less able to fight infection. In advanced stages of the illness, the patient may need oxygen all the time.
Can IPF Be treated?
No known cure exists for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Unfortunately, no medication has been shown to improve the outcome of patients with this condition.
- For some people, medications such as corticosteroids and cytotoxic drugs may help reduce swelling (inflammation).
- Ongoing clinical studies are experimenting with new treatments that have been shown to help some people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
- Oxygen may be necessary in patients who have low blood oxygen levels.
- Lung rehabilitation will not cure the disease, but can help maintain exercise capacity (the ability to exercise without breathing difficulty).
Some patients with advanced pulmonary fibrosis may need a lung transplant.