It is useful to understand what the following words mean:
- Idiopathic means ‘of unknown cause’.
- Pulmonary means ‘affecting the lungs’.
- Fibrosis means ‘thickening’ or ‘scarring’.
IPF is a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs. The scar tissue damages the lungs and makes it hard for oxygen to get in. Not getting enough oxygen to the body can cause serious health problem and even death.
Causes of IPF are unknown. However, smokers and patients with a family history of IPF are more prone to get the disease.
IPF is generally seen in individuals above 60 years of age and is more common in men than women. However, it can affect anybody in any age.
Symptoms tend to develop gradually:
- Shortness of breath that gradually becomes worse is the main symptom. This is due to the reduced amount of oxygen that gets into the bloodstream. Shortness of breath on exertion may be noticed at first.
- A dry cough often develops (a cough with little or no sputum).
- Finger or toenail clubbing occurs in about half of cases. Clubbing is a painless swelling at the base of the nails.
- An increased risk of developing chest infections.
As the condition progresses, symptoms can sometimes quickly become worse (called an acute exacerbation).