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Pulmonary Fibrosis: How Doctors Treat You When Cause Is Unknown

LungsEvery day, the air you breathe contains smoke, dust and chemicals that can irritate and damage your lungs. For most people, the lungs do a good job of filtering out toxins and repairing themselves. But if you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), your lungs don’t heal.

Instead, they form scar tissue. Over time, the scar tissue builds up and makes breathing very difficult. IPF is a chronic, progressing lung disease. But you should know that you and your doctor can slow the disease down.

Pulmonologist Daniel Culver, DO, discusses the basics of IPF, steps you can take to protect your lungs and your best treatment options.

What are risk factors of IPF?
Shortness of breath and a dry cough that lingers are the main symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Dr. Culver says.

The cause of the disease is unknown (idiopathic), but certain risk factors make the disease more likely in some people.

You are at greater risk for this disease if you:

  • Are (or were) a smoker

  • Have worked in a dusty environment

  • Are Caucasian

  • Are male

  • Are over age 40

“Most commonly we see idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in the seventh and eighth decades of life,” Dr. Culver says.

Viruses and acid reflux can also trigger the disease once it is present.

How can you slow disease progression?