A most characteristic feature of pulmonary fibrosis is scarring and inflammation of the lungs. It causes progressive lung damage as it tends to worsen with time and with each breath. Gradually the air sacs (alveoli) responsible for the exchange of oxygen with the interstitial fluid (tissue around alveoli) get exhausted. This condition restricts adequate oxygen supply to the body leading to severe complications and even death.
What is autoimmunity?
Our body is made up of multiple systems, and each of them performs a specific function. Warding off infections, fighting a disease, or tackling fever is where our immune system comes into play. The main aim is to attack the foreign invaders, but for people with autoimmunity, it sees its healthy cells and tissues too as foreign.
Rheumatoid arthritis is one such disorder. It attacks healthy joints, and later on, people might develop symptomatic lung disease – pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease (ILD).
For more information specificto your symptoms, a lungs specialist hospital can help you with it.
Early the Diagnosis, Better the Scope
What will an early diagnosis of autoimmune lung disease – pulmonary fibrosis do? An autoimmune disorder is like kerosene oil on a fire. Once left ignored, it is nearly impossible to control the fire. Similarly, there are some complications of pulmonary fibrosis:
- Worsening of disease causes shortness of breath
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Respiratory arrest and ultimately failure
- Lung carcinoma
- Blood clots in lungs and collapse
The most commonly seen pulmonary fibrosis is without any known cause. It is known as Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
You will have to consult a pulmonologist for lung fibrosis treatment. The scarring of the lungs is irreversible but slowing down is possible as per the current research. The doctor will give you all possible treatment options for improving the symptoms, managing the disease, and rehabilitation.
What Triggers Pulmonary Fibrosis?
The risk factors contributory to the development of pulmonary fibrosis are:
Modifiable risk factors:
- Cigarette smoking
- Occupational factors like mining, construction, and working in coal dust, silica dust, etc.
- Urban air pollution
- Frequent radiation and diagnostic tests
Non-modifiable risk factors:
- Gender: Males are at higher risk than any other gender
- Age: Range of 40-70 years are prone to ILD
- Genetics: Family history
- Autoimmune disorder: Rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, etc.
What are the most common symptoms?
Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis vary with time. The most common sign indicative of pulmonary fibrosis is shortness of breath.
Other common symptoms include:
- Dry cough
- Weakened chest muscles and fatigue overall
- Clubbing, i.e., loss of standard angle of the nails
- Drastic weight loss and chest discomfort
There is no designated series or duration of onset of symptoms. They can worsen within a few weeks or might remain moderate for years in some patients.
Causes behind the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis
There are a variety of causes of pulmonary fibrosis under different categories:
Exposure to asbestosis
Asbestosis, a compilation of silicates, can deposit in the lungs and cause respiratory insufficiency, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and under extreme exposure, even death.
Other toxins include:
- Coal and grain dust
- Lead, arsenic, chromium, etc., can cause respective poisonings
Bacterial and viral infections like hepatitis C, and herpes can progress towards pulmonary fibrosis.
Diseases that start attacking healthy cells and tissues of the body are potent factors towards symptomatic pulmonary fibrosis. Some of them are:
- Lupus: Affects joints, brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and blood.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Inflammatory disorder affecting bones and joints.
- Dermatomyositis: Muscle weakness and peculiar skin rash.
- Other conditions, like sarcoidosis, scleroderma, and polymyositis.
- Chemotherapy drugs used during cancer treatment,
- Certain antibiotics,
- Cardiovascular drugs
- Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: No exact cause to date.
- Genetic: Familial pulmonary fibrosis or familial interstitial pneumonia
How to prevent pulmonary fibrosis from worsening?
Active involvement for the well-being and maintaining lung strength are crucial lifestyle changes to prevent disease progression. Here are some ways you can keep control on pulmonary fibrosis:
Consult your pulmonologist, attend smoking cessation programs, and seek rehab services to help you stop smoking and protect your lungs.
Keep an eye on your environmental exposure.
Try avoiding smoking areas, industrial areas, and construction sites. You must also restrict yourself from getting multiple diagnostic scans unless absolutely necessary. Talk to your doctor about the same, and they will provide you with more harmless options.
Covid now has taught us the importance of respiratory health. Breathing exercises, guided meditation focusing on breathing patterns, and working out will help strengthen your lungs.
Other methods like getting vaccinated, adequate sleep, eating well, and never missing the follow-ups will keep you on a safe track during pulmonary fibrosis.