What is pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is an interstitial lung disease that affects an estimated 30,000 Canadians, with a projected 5,000 deaths each year. In patients with PF, the lung tissue becomes scarred and over time, thickens and becomes more widespread. In turn, the lungs lose their ability to transfer oxygen to the bloodstream, resulting in shortness of breath and vital organs being deprived of the necessary oxygen to survive.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?
Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis usually have a gradual onset and may include:
- Shortness of breath, particularly during or after physical activity
- Spasmodic, dry cough
- Gradual, unintended weight loss or weight gain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Chest discomfort
- Clubbing, or enlargement, of the ends of the fingers (or sometimes the toes) due to a buildup of tissue
What causes pulmonary fibrosis?
PF can be linked to particular causes, such as environmental exposures, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, residual infection, or autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis. In the majority of cases of pulmonary fibrosis, the cause is uncertain or unknown and as such is termed idiopathic.