What Do You Want to Know About Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)?

Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, MD on February 28, 2017Written by Mary Baucom

Overview

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) may not be a well-known disease — until you or your loved one is officially diagnosed with it. IPF is a lung disease that causes the tissue in your lungs to become stiff. This makes it harder for you to take air in and breathe naturally. Each case of IPF is different, so you should talk to your doctor for specific details about disease progression.

Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of IPF develop slowly over time. This makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose it immediately.

IPF typically affects older people, between the ages of 50 and 70. Because IPF affects people later in life, the average life expectancy after a diagnosis is 3 to 5 years. About 30,000 to 40,000 new cases of IPF are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Management and treatment

There’s currently no cure for IPF. However, treatment options are available to manage and reduce your symptoms. The main goal of treatment is to reduce lung inflammation and slow the loss of lung function. This will allow you to breathe easier.

The most common treatment options include medications to control inflammation and reduce lung tissue scaring, and oxygen therapy to help with breathing.

A lung transplant may also be needed, but this is often seen as a final treatment step.

You can also help treat IPF by making a few lifestyle changes:

  • Stop smoking, if you currently do.
  • Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay on top of all vaccines, medications, and vitamins or supplements.

Serious complications can arise if respiratory function severely declines. Some known complications include heart failure, pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). Acute exacerbations can occur after an infection, heart failure, or pulmonary embolism, but they can also occur sporadically.

Takeaway

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of IPF, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about it. You know your body better than anybody else and taking a proactive approach to your health is often the best solution.

Additionally, take a look at the content we have here to get a better understanding of what the disease is, how to recognize it, what to do after a diagnosis, and how treatment can help you live a healthier life.

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