Lung Health: Understanding Pulmonary Fibrosis
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, irreversible form of interstitial lung disease (ILD). IPF occurs when the lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred, making it difficult for the lungs to work properly. It is estimated that around 200,000 individuals are living with IPF in the United States, and the disease typically affects people 50 and older. The most common symptoms of IPF are shortness of breath, a dry cough or a crackly sound that can be heard during a lung exam. If ILD is suspected or confirmed by your physician, it is important to make an appointment with a pulmonologist experienced in treating ILD as soon as possible.
IPF is fatal. Patients who are diagnosed with the disease are usually only given a 2-5-year survival prognosis.
In Greensboro, LeBauer HealthCare at Cone Health was recently inducted to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s Care Center Network, only the second in the state to receive this designation and one of 60 in the nation. By being a part of this network, patients can rest assured that they are being treated by physicians with expertise in accurately diagnosing and treating IPF. A comprehensive, multidisciplinary team manages each case and patients have access to open clinical trials through their research partner. An active patient support group sponsored by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation meets in Greensboro and is open to all patients.
In 2014, the FDA approved two medications, pirfenidone and nintedanib, that help slow the progression of IPF. While these medications do not serve as a cure or symptom modifier, they have proven to be a safe way to help slow the progression of mild or moderate IPF into later stages of the disease over the last 4 years. Both drugs are in pill form, taken daily. Not everyone responds to the medication, but these medications provide hope for patients with IPF, as before, there were no treatment options.
The only other treatment method currently available is a lung transplant, but promising research suggests that new treatment methods may be coming soon. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have ILD, call LeBauer HealthCare at Cone Health to learn more or for an appointment at 336-547-1801 and ask about the ILD program.
Dr. Murali Ramaswamy is a pulmonary and critical care specialist at LeBauer Pulmonary and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.