Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) occurs when the tissues of the lungs become scarred and damaged. This thick, hard tissue makes it difficult for your lungs to function properly. As the disease worsens, a person experiences an increase in shortness of breath. The tissue scarring associated with pulmonary fibrosis could be as a result of several factors. Usually, the doctors cannot pinpoint the exact cause of the condition. If the cause of the pulmonary fibrosis can’t be identified, the condition is then referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The lung damage caused by PF cannot be repaired. But, several medications and therapies can be used to relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life for the patient. However, other people may require lung transplants.
The symptoms of PF include:
• Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
• Dry cough
• Aching joints and muscles
• Unexplained weight loss
The course of the disease and the austerity of symptoms vary depending on the individual. Some people may experience moderate symptoms that progress slowly while others may get very ill quickly with severe symptoms.
The lung scarring that occurs during PF is irreversible, and no treatment has been shown to be effective in stopping the disease progression. Some treatments may improve the symptoms of the disease temporarily, or slow the progression of the disease. Others are meant to improve the patient’s quality of life.
People diagnosed with PF are initially treated with a corticosteroid (prednisone), which may be combined with other drugs that suppress the immunity such as cyclosporine or methotrexate. Adding acetylcysteine, a natural amino acid derivative, to prednisone may successfully slow the progression of the disease in some people. But none of these drug combinations has been shown to be effective in the long run.
Oxygen won’t prevent the lungs from getting damaged, but it helps to:
• Make breathing and exercise easier
• Lessen or prevent complications from low oxygen levels
• Improve the sense of well-being and sleep
• Reduce the blood pressure on the right side of the heart
The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is not just to treat the disease or enhance the daily functioning; it also helps the people with the disease to live full, meaningful lives. Thus, pulmonary rehabilitation focuses on:
• Physical exercise to improve endurance
• Breathing techniques to enhance lung efficiency
• Counseling and support
• Nutritional counseling
For younger individuals who don’t respond to other forms of treatment, lung transplantation may be the last resort.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Active participation in your treatment and remaining as healthy as you can is essential for living with this condition.
Thus, it is important to:
• Eat well—people with lung disease may lose weight because they find it uncomfortable to eat, and they need extra energy to breathe. Thus, they need a nutrient-rich diet with sufficient calories. So, consult a dietician for healthy eating guidelines
• Stop smoking—you need to quit smoking if you suffer from pulmonary lung disease. Talk to your doctor about quitting options, including smoking cessation programs. Also, don’t allow someone to smoke near you because second-hand smoking is harmful to you too
• Get vaccinated—respiratory infections can escalate the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis. Thus, ensure you receive the annual flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine. Your family members should be vaccinated too. Also, avoid crowds during the flu season.
Pulmonary fibrosis is an incurable condition of the lungs. But if you suffer from the condition, do not lose hope because the available medications and remedies can help you to live a full life.