A brief overview of pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic disease of the lungs in which the lung is scarred and the normal tissue is replaced with scar tissues, an inelastic fibrous connective tissue. The consequences of this are a loss of elasticity and of the ability to expand and contract of the lungs. This impedes breathing and gas exchange ultimately leading to hypoxemia or oxygen starvation. Pulmonary fibrosis is not rare; however, each individual type is rare and it is often difficult to diagnose it. Below, a brief overview of pulmonary fibrosis has been given.

Pulmonary fibrosis is the result of a faulty healing process, in which healthy normal tissue is replaced with fibrous scar tissues. It is considered that an interplay of many factors like heredity, environmental, medical, etc., play an important role thereby leading to this disease. Pulmonary fibrosis is progressive and some types can be slowed down. The damage caused is, however, irreversible. Some of the factors that contribute to the development of this disease are long term exposure to certain chemical toxins, radiation therapy, and some medicines or medical conditions. One’s occupations, mainly mining, also contribute to the formation of this disease. Long term exposure to silica dust, asbestos fibers, coal dust, grain dust, hard metal dust, and animal and bird droppings are known to cause pulmonary fibrosis.

Shortness of breath, a dry hacking cough, constant fatigue, unexplained weight loss, joint and muscle ache, and clubbing or rounding and widening of toes and finger tips are the main symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis. There is a considerable variation in the rate of progress of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. With scar tissues filling the lungs, the blood flow gets restricted thereby raising the pulmonary blood pressure leading to right ventricular failure or cor pulmonale.

Some modern medicines like pirfenidone and nintedanib have been found to be effective for pulmonary fibrosis treatment and have found to slow down the progress of pulmonary fibrosis. Both, however, have mild side effects. In some cases, lung transplant can be a solution.

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