Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring in the lungs. When tissue around the air sacs in your lungs is damaged, the scarring limits how much air your lungs can take in and how much oxygen gets into your bloodstream. This can make you feel short of breath.
Pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by long-term exposure to substances like asbestos fibers or bird droppings; radiation therapy or certain medications; and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lung disease.
Most often, pulmonary fibrosis is idiopathic, which means that it has no identifiable cause — although recent research shows that current and former smokers are at higher risk.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic cough, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, muscle and joint aches and clubbed fingers or toes, with tips that grow wider and more rounded.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor. They'll do a physical exam and might order tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, echocardiogram, pulmonary function testing, measurements of your blood oxygen levels or a biopsy of your lung tissue.
Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatment at Rush
While there isn't a cure for pulmonary fibrosis, Rush pulmonologists have a number of ways to relieve your symptoms, improve your quality of life and slow the progress of the disease.
- Medication options include corticosteroids and drugs like nintedanib and pirfenidone that help reduce inflammation and prevent new scarring.
- Oxygen therapy can make it easier for you to breathe, be more active and sleep comfortably.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation helps you stay active and experience less shortness of breath.
- Sleep therapy can help you get a good night's sleep if you have sleep apnea, GERD or other issues often associated with pulmonary fibrosis.
- Help to quit smoking will help you breathe more easily.
Rush Excellence in Pulmonary Fibrosis Care
- Fast, accurate diagnosis: Rush pulmonologists use state-of-the-art testing to pinpoint whether your breathing problems and other symptoms are being caused by pulmonary fibrosis or another condition. Getting the right diagnosis will help you get the right treatment.
- The power of an academic medical center: Researchers in Rush's interstitial lung disease program are always exploring new treatments for lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, and can connect you with clinical trials taking place here or at other research institutions.
- A team approach: To help you live a better life with pulmonary fibrosis, your Rush pulmonologist works closely with specialists in other areas like sleep medicine and pulmonary rehabilitation. Coordinated care within the Rush System means that you have a seamless experience; your providers communicate with each other frequently and share your electronic health record with real-time updates.
- Care close to home: Rush pulmonologists are located in Chicago, Oak Park and Aurora/Fox Valley. Even if you have tests or procedures at Rush University Medical Center, you can schedule follow-up appointments or pulmonary rehabilitation at a location that's convenient for you.