Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a lung disease which presents many problems to patients. Due to the scarring and stiffening of lung tissue associated with PF, patients may find that the disease is affecting the way they breathe. This is because the damaged lung tissue makes it harder for inhaled oxygen to enter the bloodstream.
Symptoms of PF include coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, and clubbing (widening and rounding) of the tips of fingers or toes. Severity of symptoms and the rate at which they may get worse over time can vary. Please click here for more detail about PF symptoms.
Treatments for Pulmonary Fibrosis
PF is an extremely varied condition, and over 200 different types of it are known, according to the American Lung Association. What’s more, the cause of PF is often unknown (PF with no known cause is called Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF) which may also affect treatment. The lung scarring associated with PF is permanent once it occurs, so there are limited treatment options available, although research into the area is ongoing. With present treatments for pulmonary fibrosis. patient prognosis and quality of life can be improved even though PF is incurable.
There are general treatments that may be used across the PF spectrum, and you should speak to your doctor about which ones may be right for you:
- Oxygen therapy – Oxygen therapy is one of the main treatments for pulmonary fibrosis. Generally, oxygen is prescribed when oxygen levels drop below 88%. When oxygen levels drop too low, high blood pressure can occur which leads to failure of certain parts of the heart. Oxygen is administered to help prevent this. Sometimes, oxygen can be carried around in a portable canister, allowing people to live a relatively normal life, including doing sports and exercise.
- Lung transplantation – Lung transplantation is becoming an increasingly common treatment worldwide, especially for PF. At the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), more than half of all lung transplants are performed on patients with PF. The surgery involved in lung transplants is quite complex, and takes around 6 hours. During this time, doctors may perform a cardiopulmonary bypass, in which a machine is used to pump and oxygenate blood around the patient’s body while the lungs are transplanted. Post-op recovery and quality of life are major hurdles of lung transplantation. Around 90% of patients will live for one year after surgery in certain places, although survival rates drop after this. Around half of patients will survive 5 years after a lung transplant, but some can survive for 10 years or longer. After surgery, patients will need to follow a strict medication and lifestyle regime to help prevent the body from rejecting the new lungs, as well as to prevent general infection. To learn more, and read about the case of Rowan Jimenez, who regularly bikes, runs and climbs after a lung transplant, please click here.
- Drug therapy – Different drugs may be given depending on the type of PF, so it is important to discuss this with your doctor. Some drugs available as treatments for pulmonary fibrosis include (), an oral drug which has been shown to slow down lung degradation, and corticosteroids (), which are not normally used to treat PF but can treat inflammation in the lungs associated with some types of it. These drugs have side-effects. To find out more about them and other types of treatments for pulmonary fibrosis, click here.
Featured image: Depositphotos / AndreyPopovPosted on May 5, 2023