Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), is a chronic and progressive disease of the lung where the lung tissues thicken, stiffen and scar without a definitive cause.
If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may wish to ask your physician the following four questions:
1. Besides the shortness of breath and dry cough, what other symptoms am I likely to experience with this condition?
You could experience any or a combination of any of the following symptoms:
• Labored breathing
• Easy fatigue
• Occasional chest pain
• Rasping sounds heard from the lungs through a stethoscope, while breathing
• Weight loss
• Pulmonary hypertension
• Cyanosis (bluish skin color due to deficient oxygen levels in blood)
• Clubbing of fingers
2. Are there other conditions with similar symptoms that I may be having?
Yes. There are other lung conditions that have overlapping symptoms. Thus, a differential diagnosis needs to be made while detecting IPF. Other conditions with similar symptoms are:
• Bacterial, fungal or viral pneumonia
• Aspiration pneumonia
• Pneumococcal infections
• Farmer’s lung
• Eosinophillic pneumonia
• Drug induced pulmonary toxicity
• Restrictive lung disease
• Cardiogenic, neurogenic pulmonary edema
• Lung cancer
• Recurrent intra-alveolar hemorrhage
3. What tests will confirm IPF?
As with other lung conditions, diagnosis is made by running a combination of tests to correctly ascertain the disease and extent of damage, prognosis and line of treatment to be followed. Some diagnostic tests are outlined below:
• Differential diagnosis
• Transbronchial lung biopsy
• Pulmonary function test
• Chest X-ray to view the grid-like pattern in the lower lobes of the lung
• CAT scan to show bibasilar reticular abnormalities with minimal ground glass, honeycombing/ bronchiectasis
• Measurement of blood oxygen level, hemoglobin and leukocyte values
• Tests for connective tissue diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma
• Broncho-alveolar lavage
4. Is IPF infectious?