font size

Pulmonary Fibrosis (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What are causes and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?

Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • shortness of breath,
  • coughing, and
  • diminished exercise tolerance.

Symptoms vary depending on the cause of the pulmonary fibrosis. The severity of symptoms and the progression (worsening) of symptoms over time can vary.

The most common form, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, has slow and relentless progression. Early on, patients often complain of a dry, unexplained cough. Often, slow and insidious onset of shortness of breath can set in. With time, dyspnea (shortness of breath) worsens. Dyspnea initially occurs only with activity and is often attributed to aging. Over time, the dyspnea occurs with little or no activity. Eventually, the shortness of breath becomes disabling, limiting all activity and even occurring while sitting still. In rarer cases, the fibrosis can be rapidly progressive, with dyspnea and disability occurring in weeks to months from the onset of the disease. This form of pulmonary fibrosis has been referred to as Hamman-Rich syndrome.

How is pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed?

Pulmonary fibrosis is suggested by a history of progressive (worsening over time) shortness of breath with exertion. Sometimes, during examination of the lungs with a stethoscope, the doctor can hear crackling sounds in the chest. These crackles have a very characteristic sound and are very similar to the sound heard when Velcro is pulled apart. These are often referred to as "Velcro crackles (or rales)". The chest X-ray may or may not be abnormal. However, a special X-ray test called a high resolution CT scan will frequently demonstrate abnormalities. This type of X-ray provides a cross-sectional picture of the lungs in very detailed resolution. The classic findings in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis show diffuse peripheral scarring of the lungs with small bubbles (known as bullae) adjacent to the outer lining of the surface of the lung, often at the bases of the lungs.

Lung function testing is distinctly abnormal. The volumes of the lungs may be reduced, as may the airflow, but the characteristic finding is a reduction in the diffusing capacity. The diffusing capacity is a measure of the ability of the lungs to exchange gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) into and out of the blood stream.

The diagnosis can be confirmed by lung biopsy. An open surgical biopsy, meaning that the chest wall must be surgically opened under general anesthesia to remove a portion of lung tissue, may be necessary to obtain enough tissue to make an accurate diagnosis. The most common type of biopsy in this situation is by a video assisted thoracoscope. Basically, this involves placing a small tube into the chest cavity through which biopsy samples can be obtained. Often, if the clinical situation is very classical in presentation, a biopsy may be unnecessary. The biopsy specimen is examined microscopically by a pathologist to confirm the presence of fibrosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Pulmonary Fibrosis - Treatments Question: What treatments have been helpful with your pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary Fibrosis - Experience Question: If known, what was the cause of your pulmonary fibrosis? Please share your experience.
Pulmonary Fibrosis - Symptoms Question: What were your symptoms associated with pulmonary fibrosis?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/pulmonary_fibrosis/article.htm

Women's Health

Find out what women really need.

advertisement
advertisement
Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations

NIH talks about Ebola on WebMD