ZocdocAnswersWhat is pulmonary fibrosis?

Question

What is pulmonary fibrosis?

I've been having serious trouble breathing recently, and my doctor is exploring whether I could have pulmonary fibrosis. I'm waiting for the results of my biopsy now. If I do have it, what does that mean for my future? How is it treated and how serious can it get?

Answer

Pulmonary fibrosis is a general term to describe lungs which have become more stiff as apposed to elastic which is their normal state. It has many different causes, which is the important factor in determining the prognosis. I should stress that all forms of pulmonary fibrosis are serious diseases. The main symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis is shortness of breath upon minimal exertion (such as climbing one flight of stairs). Patient's can also have cough, fatigue and changes in their fingernails known as clubbing. Although I cannot go through all the causes here, I can summarize them as follows. Pulmonary fibrosis can be due to exposure to an environmental agent (for example bird feces), smoking, certain drugs especially chemotherapy, autoimmune diseases, and unknown. The last category (unknown) is also called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. All forms of pulmonary fibrosis are treated with immune system suppressants (such as steroids). There is no cure other than a lung transplant which many patients seek as the disease progresses if they are otherwise in good health. Since it is such a complex disease with specialized treatment, patients must be cared for by a pulmonary specialist. This is who you must see if your biopsy comes back positive for fibrosis. Good luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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