The outcomes of pulmonary fibrosis differ for each individual. In many cases pulmonary fibrosis remains mild and takes a number of years to slowly progress. However, in other cases pulmonary fibrosis may be due to underlying diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. These underlying diseases may progress and affect the pulmonary fibrosis itself.
Pulmonary fibrosis tends to result in a slow progressive scarring of the lungs. Unfortunately some patients do not respond positively to therapy and their lungs will slowly deteriorate over a period of months or years until they are no longer able to function adequately. Alternatively other patients have a positive response to therapy. The duration and speed of the onset of pulmonary fibrosis differs on a case by case basis.
If one of the known causes of pulmonary fibrosis exists then that underlying disease can be treated in order to limit the inflammation in the lungs. Limited inflammation will prevent the formation of scar tissue in the lungs and hopefully stop the progression of pulmonary fibrosis. However, due to the lack of standard diagnostic criteria, no effective treatments or a cure for pulmonary fibrosis currently exist.
Although much more research is required regarding drug therapy for pulmonary fibrosis, a number of supportive therapy programs exist to help patients adjust to symptoms of this condition. These include education and rehabilitation programs, which assist patients to breathe efficiently and to perform daily activities while keeping breathlessness to a minimum.
Supplemental oxygen can be administered in order to treat breathlessness and to improve a patient’s quality of life and exercise capacity. Removing the patient from the environment in which pollutants are being inhaled can also assist in limiting the progression of the disease. Chest infections require early treatment. Some patients may be considered for a single lung transplant. In addition, patients must quit smoking, as tobacco aggravates shortness of breath.