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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a condition in which the lungs become scarred and breathing becomes increasingly difficult.

It’s not clear what causes it, but it usually affects people who are around 70 to 75 years old, and is rare in people under 50.

Several treatments can help reduce the rate at which IPF gets worse, but there’s currently no treatment that can stop or reverse the scarring of the lungs.

Symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

The symptoms of IPF tend to develop gradually and get slowly worse over time.

Symptoms can include:

Shortness of breath
A persistent dry cough
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Rounded and swollen fingertips (clubbed fingers)
Many people ignore their breathlessness at first and blame it on getting old or being out of shape.

But eventually even light activity such as getting dressed can cause shortness of breath.

When to get medical advice

See a GP if you have struggled with your breathing for a while or have had a cough for more than 3 weeks.

These symptoms are not normal and should not be ignored.

If a GP thinks you could have a lung condition such as IPF, they can refer you to a hospital specialist for tests such as:

Breathing (lung function) tests
Blood tests
A chest X-ray and CT scan
A lung biopsy, where a small piece of lung tissue is removed during keyhole surgery so it can be analysed.

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