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Pulmonary fibrosis: All you need to know about it + treatment

Do you often feel fatigued? Is your constant coughing snatching away your peace? Your sudden weight loss is bothering you? Then, it’s time to consult your doctor as you may be suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. Yes, you have heard us here! Read on to know more about this condition.

Pulmonary fibrosis can be defined as a lung disease which tends to take place when lung tissue is damaged and scarred. You will be stunned to know that this thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for your lungs to function properly. Moreover, as pulmonary fibrosis worsens, you become progressively shorter of breath and may give you a tough time. Did you know? The scarring linked with pulmonary fibrosis can occur owing to a multitude of factors. Also, the lung damage which one undergoes due to pulmonary fibrosis can’t be repaired. But what is relieving is that the medications and therapies can sometimes help tackle symptoms and improve quality of life. Here, we list out the symptoms, causes, and treatment for pulmonary fibrosis. The lung scarring which takes place owing to pulmonary fibrosis can’t be reversed, and also no current treatment has proved helpful in stopping the progression of it.

Take note of these symptoms

If you are suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, you may exhibit symptoms like shortness of breath (dyspnea), a dry cough, tiredness, unexplained weight loss, aching muscles, and joints, widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers or toes (clubbing). You should be aware that the course of pulmonary fibrosis and the severity of symptoms may vary considerably from person to person. In the case of some people, they may become ill very quickly with the severe disease while others may show moderate symptoms which may worsen more slowly, over months or even years. Moreover, some patients may experience a rapid worsening of their symptoms (acute exacerbation), like severe shortness of breath, which tends to last for several days to weeks. Not only this, people who have acute exacerbations may also be placed on a mechanical ventilator. Yes, you have heard it right! Thus, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics, corticosteroid medications or other medications to treat an acute exacerbation. Here, you should also remember that you must immediately consult your doctor, once you notice the symptoms. Delay in doing so can worsen your condition.

Everything you need to know about the causes

The tissue around and between the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs may get scarred and thickened owing to pulmonary fibrosis. And this will make difficult for oxygen to pass into your bloodstream. Long-term exposure to certain toxins, certain medical conditions, radiation therapy, and some medications, are some of the factors which can lead to the damage. Also, other factors like long-term exposure to a number of toxins and pollutants can damage your lungs like silica dust, grain dust, hard metal dust, and bird and animal droppings can be the culprits too. Your doctor will help you understand the cause behind it.

The risk factors

Although pulmonary fibrosis has been diagnosed in children and infants, the disorder is much more likely to affect middle-aged and older adults too. Moreover, smokers and former smokers develop pulmonary fibrosis when compared to the people who haven’t smoked. It tends to also occur in the ones with emphysema. Not only this, if you work in mining, farming or construction or if you’re exposed to pollutants which cause lung damage, then also you are at an increased risk of suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. Also, some types of pulmonary fibrosis run in families and genetic factors may be a component.

Take these preventive measures

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you manage your symptoms and enhance your quality of life. It includes doing physical exercise to improve your endurance, breathing techniques to improve lung efficiency nutritional counselling, and support. You must cut down on smoking if you have lung disease. You must speak to your doctor and opt for smoking cessation programs, which may help you quit it. Furthermore, you must also keep in mind that second-hand smoke is harmful, and avoid being around people who smoke. One with lung disease may shed weight because it’s uncomfortable to eat and due to the extra energy, it takes to breathe. Hence, a nutritionally rich diet which contains adequate calories is vital. Also, you should try to eat smaller meals more often during the day. Include fresh fruits, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free and dairy products, in your daily diet. Say no to trans-fat and saturated fat, foods with too much salt, and added sugars. You can speak to your expert who will help you with the right kinds of foods you should eat.

Moreover, regular physical activity can help you enhance the functioning of your lungs, and tame stress. You can opt for activities like walking, cycling and many more. You must consult your doctor regarding the activities which can be helpful for you. See it to it that you rest enough and this can help you get more energy and cope with the stress of your condition. Also, don’t forget to go for regular follow-ups with your doctor without missing any of the appointments. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and adhere to all the instructions. Doing so can surely help you improve the quality of your life.

Lung transplant is definitive treatment for certain lung fibrosis. You need to consult your doctor about this. It’s now feasible in India also.

By Dr. Arvind Kate, Pulmonologist at Zen Multi specialty Hospital, Chembur

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