IPF is a rare lung disease. Men over the age of 50 are most commonly affected. Diagnosis is extremely complicated because other lung diseases must first be ruled out. It is thought that IPF is caused by impaired wound healing after minute injuries in the lung tissue. Due to these injuries fibroblasts, which are supposed to repair the damage, are over-activated.
The constant repairs lead to the walls of the alveoli thickening and can no longer fill properly with air. Eventually they scar over into rigid balloons. The result is severely restricted oxygen uptake, so that IPF patients find it difficult to breathe.
IPF usually goes unnoticed for a long time and the symptoms are often initially confused with other respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or heart failure. By the time the symptoms appear, the disease is often advanced.
The most common symptoms of the disease include:
Cough (dry, irritating cough without sputum).
Shortness of breath (first with physical activity)
Fatigue (reduced ability to work)
The diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is frightening, unsettling and raises many questions.