Pulmonary fibrosis refers to progressive scarring of lungs or accumulation of scar tissues in lungs which can destroy the normal lungs and thus reduce the levels of oxygen that enter blood. The damage to lungs caused by pulmonary fibrosis is irreversible; treatment can be done to ease the symptoms.
Pulmonary fibrosis occurs due to many factors. Often, the exact cause remains unidentified in most of the cases. Causes include:
- Radiation exposure
- Drug use or certain medications
- Environmental factors
- Occupational exposure to irritants
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain medical conditions such as pneumonia
Some of the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis includes:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry, hacking cough
- Clubbing of fingertips or toes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Aching muscles and joints
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
Diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis includes:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Physical examination
- Medical history
- Family history
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Lung function tests
Pulmonary fibrosis is not completely preventable. Preventive measures include avoiding smoking and limiting exposure to irritants.
Pulmonary fibrosis has no cure; treatment can be done to relive the signs and symptoms. Treatment measures for pulmonary fibrosis includes:
- Medications: drugs in the treatment of pulmonary fibrosis are mostly to slow down the progression of the condition.
- Oxygen therapy: oxygen therapy is required as the affected person will have shortness of breath. This cannot reduce the progression of the condition, but it can make breathing easier and prevent further complications that occur due to lower blood oxygen levels.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation program focuses on managing the signs and symptoms. It includes:
- Physical exercise
- Breathing techniques
- Education on the condition and counselling
- Lung transplant: it involves replacement of the damaged lung with a healthy one.
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