Pulmonary fibrosis can be debilitating if not treated right away, which is why proper medical care when you have the disease is so important. Knowing about early symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis is the key to getting diagnosed with the disease as soon as possible, receiving early treatment and significantly boosting your quality of life.
What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung condition that develops when your lung tissue becomes stiff, damaged and scarred over time due to genetics or environmental factors. Your blood may not get enough oxygen, and you’ll likely begin experiencing unpleasant side effects associated with the disease.
Pulmonary Fibrosis Risk Factors
It’s helpful to know if you’re at risk for pulmonary fibrosis so you can keep an eye out for early symptoms of the disease. Risk factors for pulmonary fibrosis include being older than age 50, being male, having an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, having certain viral infections, having a family history of pulmonary fibrosis, smoking cigarettes and being exposed to hazardous materials such as asbestos, silica, hard metal dust, grain dust, coal dust, radiation treatment, some medications and dust from animal droppings.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says 9 out of 10 people with idiopathic (in other words, of an unknown cause) pulmonary fibrosis also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Early Symptoms to Monitor
Shortness of Breath
You may have early symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis if you’re feeling short of breath, especially during physical activity, that’s more intense than usual. Shortness of breath may worsen over time and become problematic even during periods of rest when you have pulmonary fibrosis.
A Dry Cough
Another early symptom of pulmonary fibrosis you might notice is a dry, hacking cough that persists long term. Over time, your cough may become worse to the point that you may have difficulty controlling it.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Shortness of breath and coughs are the most prevalent early signs of pulmonary fibrosis, but unexplained gradual weight loss can develop over time. If you’ve noticed you’re losing weight without trying to and have other symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, it might be time to check in with a doctor to go over your symptoms.
Just because you experience fatigue doesn’t mean you have pulmonary fibrosis, but if unexplained fatigue is getting the best of you, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. Fatigue coupled with weight loss, coughing and shortness of breath could be an indicator of pulmonary fibrosis. You might also notice a general feeling of being unwell (a.k.a. malaise).
Muscle and Joint Aches and Pains
Long-term symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis may include muscle and joint aches and pains in addition to the symptoms listed above. Muscle and joint pain is also associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, which are also a risk factors for pulmonary fibrosis.
Clubbing of Fingers or Toes
If your fingertips or toes begin to look like clubs (meaning they get wider or rounder near the tips), finger clubbing could be to blame. This unpleasant symptom could be an indicator of pulmonary fibrosis, so check in with your doctor as soon as you notice it.
See your doctor right away if you experience pulmonary fibrosis symptoms of shortness of breath, a dry cough, mucus buildup, clubbing of fingers or toes, muscle or joint aches and pain, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
If pulmonary fibrosis is left untreated over time, it can lead to long-term complications such as collapsed lungs, blood clots in the lungs, lung infections, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, respiratory failure and heart failure.
Getting Diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis
Once you spot the early warning signs of pulmonary fibrosis and see your doctor, he or she can conduct tests to help determine if you do indeed have this condition. Your doctor may perform imaging tests, lung function tests, a biopsy and go over your medical history to help make a diagnosis.
Seeking Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis
There isn’t a cure for pulmonary fibrosis. However, your doctor can help you manage the disease to improve your quality of life and lengthen your life expectancy. Your doctor may recommend taking certain medications, participating in pulmonary rehabilitation — like exercise therapy, breathing strategies, energy-conserving techniques and pulmonary fibrosis education — using oxygen therapy or getting on a list to become a lung transplant recipient.
New medications are being studied as additional treatments and therapies for pulmonary fibrosis. Also, there is some evidence that taking enzyme supplements can reduce inflammation in the lungs and improve pulmonary fibrosis symptoms. When shopping for systemic enzyme supplements, there are two important features to look for. Make sure the product is a blended formula that contains both enteric-coated serrapeptase and nattokinase, and that the formula uses BPPS™ technology to maximize absorption. Spotting the early warning signs of this chronic disease makes treatment more effective and can drastically improve the quality and duration of your life.Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information received from us.