All about pulmonary fibrosis, the fatal disease that can leave one breathless

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Living with pulmonary fibrosis can be a hard task. It not only prevents the lungs from functioning normally but also leaves them with permanent damage. The disease is progressive and as it gets worse, a person tends to gasp for breath. If you have been suffering from breathlessness and incessant coughing, tiredness or unintentional weight loss of late, especially post Covid, you must consult a doctor.

Many post Covid patients in the recent times have been diagnosed with the disease. Children, middle-aged and older adults, smokers, and former smokers can also suffer from pulmonary fibrosis due to a variety of causes.

“This condition is severe, steals your peace of mind, and affects your ability to do the daily chores with ease. You will be shocked to know that lung damage due to pulmonary fibrosis is irreversible. Thus, early diagnosis, swift treatment, adequate hydration, and opting for vitamin C and zinc supplements may be helpful in managing lung fibrosis,” says Dr Shyam Thampi, Senior Consultant Respiratory/ Pulmonary Medicine, ACI Cumballa Hill Hospital, Mumbai.

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Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis

If you suspect you may be suffering from this disease, look out for the following symptoms explained by Dr Thampi

* Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

* Weight loss

* Tiredness

* Dry cough

* Unexplained weight loss

* Aching muscles,

* Rounding of the tips of the fingers or toes (clubbing).

Early treatment is the key for tackling this disease as in later stages and in case of acute exacerbations, it can be life threatening.

“The symptoms can vary from one person to another. The symptoms will worsen over time, and one’s health will deteriorate. This condition can even lead to the loss of life. Those who tend to have acute exacerbations can be kept on a ventilator as well,” says Dr Thampi.

What causes pulmonary fibrosis

It is seen as the tissue around and between the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs become thick and scarred. Thus, you will not be able to breathe properly due to reduced oxygen supply. Certain toxins, a few medical conditions, radiation therapy, and some medications can be the culprits behind lung damage. Your doctor is the right person to determine the underlying cause behind the condition. It is also a common occurrence in the ones who have existing respiratory problems and then get infected with Covid-19, explains Dr Thampi.

Treatment of pulmonary fibrosis

After examining and investigating you, the doctor will decide about the line of treatment for you. You may be advised to take antibiotics, corticosteroid medications, antifibrotics or other medications to tackle your acute exacerbation.

Tips to manage pulmonary fibrosis

One must take all steps to manage the health condition in early stages. Regular exercise, nutritional supplements, avoiding smoking and eating a healthy diet can go a long way.

* Exercise on a daily basis to enhance your endurance

* Practice breathing techniques to improve lung health

* Go for nutritional counseling and support. You may be suggested to take vitamin supplements for the smooth functioning of your respiratory system

* Take measures to improve immunity.

* Do not smoke and also avoid second-hand smoking.

* Add fresh fruits, whole grains, and dairy products, in your daily diet.

* Take medications as per the doctor’s advice. Do not self-medicate or miss your follow-ups.

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