8 Signs of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that causes scar tissue to form in your lungs, which prevents your body from getting enough oxygen. In most cases, doctors can’t identify the specific cause of the disease. There are some factors that can increase your risk, though. Smoking, being exposed to pollution, and having acid reflux disease all increase your chances of developing pulmonary fibrosis. Some medications and infections may cause the disease, too. The disease is more common in middle-aged and elderly people than in younger people, and it affects men more frequently than women. There may also be a genetic component.

To diagnose the disease, doctors perform imaging tests and lung function tests, and they sometimes take a lung tissue sample. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Oxygen therapy and medications can help you breathe and can ease some of the symptoms, but the damage to your lungs is irreversible. The outlook is different for everyone, and while some people rapidly deteriorate within a few months, others live for more than 10 years after being diagnosed. The disease can cause a variety of different symptoms, so identifying and treating it as early as possible is essential. Here are eight signs and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis:

1. Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of pulmonary fibrosis and is experienced by almost everyone with the disease. The disease causes your lung tissue to become scarred, thickened, and stiff, which makes it very difficult to breathe. Usually, oxygen moves into your blood through small air sacs in your lungs. When the tissue between and around the air sacs is scarred, it becomes much more difficult for oxygen to travel from your lungs to your blood.

With pulmonary fibrosis, even if you take as large and deep of a breath as you can, you won’t feel like you got enough oxygen. This feeling might be especially overwhelming when you walk, climb stairs, or do other activities, so you may need to take frequent breaks when performing physical tasks. In the late stages of the disease, the shortness of breath might make it tiring just to eat or speak. For some people, the breathing issues quickly get worse within months. For others, the progression of the disease is much slower and can stay the same for years. However, when the lung tissue becomes scarred, it can’t be reversed. Therefore, the shortness of breath tends to get worse over time. Even with treatment, you may always feel slightly short of breath.