Common risk factors of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Common risk factors of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Fibrosis is a condition that results in the thickening and scarring of the connective tissue. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a lung disease that causes the scarring of the lungs thus impairing normal function. The lungs are made up of soft connective tissue designed to absorb oxygen and gradual scarring can cause the tissue to harden and degrade.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis mainly affects the interstitium which is the tissue and space around the air sacs in the lungs. The tissue damage results in breathing problems as the lungs cannot expand normally to absorb fresh oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide at the same time.

There is no known cause or direct trigger that can cause idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. However, there are multiple risk factors that increase the chances of developing this condition which is why attention must be given to the following triggers to advise immediate medical attention.

The risk factors of IPF are mentioned below:

  • Age
    Old age is a major factor that increases the chances of suffering from IPF. It is not uncommon for major organs in the body to deteriorate as one ages which is why it is also necessary to monitor the first signs of discomfort that could be very well a result of scarring in the lungs.
  • Sex
    Men are at a higher risk of suffering from an idiopathic condition in comparison to women. It is estimated that over three fourth of the patients suffering from IPF are male.
  • GERD
    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is another risk factor that can trigger scarring in the interstitium. More than 75% of the patients exhibit varied symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn making GERD a major cause for concern for both men and women.
  • Smoking
    The air sacs in the lungs are designed to absorb fresh oxygen. However, people who are regular smokers pollute the lung with toxic chemicals from the cigarette that deteriorates the tissue. The air sacs are destroyed gradually thus increasing the chances of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Genetics
    Studies show that interstitium lung diseases run in the family and there is a high chance of the trigger being genetic. Familial pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which more than one member suffers from the same condition.

Symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Primary symptoms of IPF include shortness of breath and chronic cough. Breathlessness will affect one’s day-to-day routine and even simple activities like climbing stairs, eating or for that matter getting dressed become difficult tasks to handle. A chronic cough can last over a period of eight weeks and is one of the most glaring symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Associated symptoms include chest pain and feeling of tightness, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, tiredness, loss of energy, and clubbing of the toes and fingertips.

As yet, there is no known cure for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Also, there are no specific treatments for the condition yet and a combination of medications and therapy can help slow the scarring and manage the varied symptoms at best. It is important to be aware that making recommended lifestyle changes and implementing healthy habits in one’s routine will help manage the condition better in the long run.