Pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic disease characterized by progressive scarring of the tissue lining the lungs (lung parenchyma). This process appears to derive from an anomalous inflammatory response to a series of damages to the lung parenchyma.The formation of scar tissue in the lungs impairs the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) in the alveoli and leads to breathing difficulties .
Fibrosis can be associated with interstitial lung pathologies linked to autoimmune diseases (e.g. systemic sclerosis , dermatomyositis and rheumatoid arthritis ) or infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis ). In other cases, it is induced by certain therapeutic regimens (e.g. amiodarone , chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy ) or by exposure to dust or toxic substances in the work environment (silica, asbestos , heavy metals and wood sawdust). Risk factors that favor its appearance are the habit of smoking cigarettes , respiratory tract infections,gastro-esophageal reflux and genetic predisposition in familial forms (10-15% of cases).
Pulmonary fibrosis usually occurs in adulthood , especially in males.
Common symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are: shortness of breath (dyspnea that tends to worsen over time), dry cough , feeling of discomfort in the chest, loss of appetite , reduction in body weight , weakness and easy fatigue.Pulmonary fibrosis affects the circulation and heart and can lead to respiratory failure. Other possible complications are pulmonary hypertension , right heart failure (cor pulmonale), and increased risk of lung cancer .
The diagnostic process to confirm the presence of pulmonary fibrosis begins with the clinical evaluation of the patient, chest x-ray and high-resolution CT scan of the lung . Furthermore, to determine the degree of functional limitation that causes the disease, it is possible to use exercise tests , blood gas analysis (measures the quantity of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood ) and pulmonary function tests ( spirometry ). In doubtful cases, a biopsy is necessary.
There are no specific therapies for pulmonary fibrosis, but a series of treatments can slow its progression and improve the patient’s quality of life. Among the measures that can be adopted are: oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation programs , cortisone drugs and immunosuppressants. In younger patients, without other associated pathologies, lung transplant may be indicated.
Symptoms and signs of pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by the presence of various symptoms which may include:
Common symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis
- Respiratory acidosis
- Pulmonary Atelectasis
- Drumstick fingers
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Rarer symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis
- Hypertrophy Of The Accessory Muscles Of Respiration
- Reduction Of Respiratory Sounds
- Water Retention