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Pulmonary Fibrosis : Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Pulmonary fibrosis is a respiratory disorder caused by the formation of scar tissue in the lung organs. This condition will cause the lungs to not function normally.

This abnormal lung function will cause a person to experience shortness of breath, even when only doing light activities, such as walking or wearing clothes.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that worsens slowly and is not contagious. This condition can be caused by various factors and can be experienced by anyone, but it is more common in adults and the elderly.

Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is caused by scar tissue that forms in the lungs. Several factors can trigger the formation of scar tissue, including:

Work environment

Hazardous chemical particles, such as asbestos fibers, coal powder, and metal dust, risk damaging the lung organs if the exposure lasts for a long time. Chemical particles can be found in mining, agriculture, and building construction areas.

Certain diseases

Pulmonary fibrosis can develop from several diseases, such as pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and sarcoidosis.

Certain medications

Several types of drugs can damage lung tissue, such as chemotherapy drugs (methotrexate and cyclophosphamide), heart disease medications (amiodarone), antibiotics (nitrofurantoin and ethambutol), and anti-inflammatory drugs (rituximab and sulfasalazine).


Radiation therapy or radiotherapy that is generally given to treat cancer risks damaging the lungs, especially if done for a long time. Symptoms of lung damage can be seen in several months to several years since the patient is exposed to radiation.

In addition to some of the causes above, some factors can increase a person's risk of pulmonary fibrosis, namely:

  • Age and gender

Most people with pulmonary fibrosis are people aged between 40-70 years. However, this condition can also be experienced by infants and children. Pulmonary fibrosis is also more experienced by men than women.

  • Smoking habit

The risk of active smokers or people who have smoked to get lung fibrosis is higher than people who have never smoked at all.

  • Heredity

Pulmonary fibrosis can be inherited in families. In some cases, people with pulmonary fibrosis are known to have family members who also suffer from this disease.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis that can be recognized include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when you are exercising
  • Dry and short cough
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Gradually lose weight
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Clubbing finger or clubbing on the hands and feet

When to see a doctor

Every worker who is at risk of exposure to hazardous particles, such as silica dust or asbestos fibers, needs to carry out regular checks to the doctor regularly, usually once a year, depending on company policy. Besides, these workers must also wear personal protective equipment to prevent damage to the warp.

Immediately consult a doctor if you have a cough for more than 3 weeks, especially until shortness of breath. This condition requires special treatment from a doctor.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis

After asking the patient's symptoms and history, the doctor will use a stethoscope to check the sounds in the lung organs. The doctor can also do additional tests to confirm the presence of pulmonary fibrosis, namely by:

  • Imaging test

Imaging is done by chest X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, to check the condition and structure of the warp.

  • Lung function test

This test can be done with spirometry, oximetry, and blood gas analysis, to check the performance of the function as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide gas levels in the blood.

  • Biopsy

This procedure is carried out to confirm the diagnosis and detect the severity of pulmonary fibrosis, through an examination of pulmonary tissue samples.

In addition to blood gas analysis, blood tests are also carried out to check the functions of other organs, such as the kidneys and liver, and detect infections. Because the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are similar to the symptoms of heart disease, your doctor may perform an echo examination of the heart and an ECG treadmill to check for heart function.

Treatment of Pulmonary Fibrosis

The doctor will determine the type of pulmonary fibrosis treatment based on the severity. Treatment can be done for pulmonary fibrosis, namely:

  • Giving medicine

The doctor will give inhibition to the development of pulmonary fibrosis. The types of drugs given are prednisone, azathioprine, pirfenidone, and nintedanib.

  • Additional oxygen

Oxygen is given to prevent the body from lacking oxygen, as well as to improve sleep quality.

  • Lung rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is done by exercising physical endurance and breathing techniques to improve the workings of the lung organs so that they will relieve symptoms.

  • Lung transplantation

Lung transplantation is done if the condition of the lungs is severe and other treatments are not effective for treating pulmonary fibrosis. This method is done by replacing damaged lungs with healthy lungs from the donor. However, this procedure risks causing the body to reject new organs.

In addition to medical treatment, the doctor will also encourage patients to change their lifestyle, so that the treatment and recovery process takes place more quickly and there are no complications. The steps that need to be done are:

  • Stop smoking and avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Eat foods high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid foods high in salt and fatty foods.
  • More rest.
  • Doing exercise regularly.
  • Vaccinating pneumonia and flu regularly.

Complications of Pulmonary Fibrosis

If left untreated and not treated immediately, pulmonary fibrosis risks cause complications in sufferers, which are in the form of:

  • Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is the high blood pressure in the pulmonary veins. This condition occurs when blood flow in the lungs is disrupted due to the formation of scar tissue.

  • Heart failure

Disruption of blood flow in the lungs makes the heart have to work harder to pump blood so that over time, heart failure can occur.

  • Lung Cancer

Pulmonary fibrosis that lasts for a long time can develop into lung cancer.

  • Failure to breath

Respiratory failure occurs when the lungs are no longer able to take in water and meet the oxygen demand in the body. In this condition, breathing aids are needed.

Other disorders that can also occur are the formation of blood clots in the lungs and lung infections (pneumonia).

Prevention of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Avoiding risk factors can prevent pulmonary fibrosis. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke both second and third-hand smoke. Avoid environments that have many pollutants. Continue to be active and exercise regularly so that the lungs are stronger so it is easier to breathe.



  1. American Lung Association (2018). Pulmonary Fibrosis.
  2. Mayo Clinic (2018). Diseases and Conditions. Pulmonary Fibrosis.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.