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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: Life expectancy and quality of life

What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Fibrosis is a medicinal term used for what people usually refer to as scarring. Out of this a conclusion can be drawn that pulmonary fibrosis is a medical issue in which the lungs get scarred. This type of medical condition can be triggered by numerous different causes such as certain types of medications, chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, exposure to ionizing radiation such as radiation therapy for the treatment of tumors of the chest, environmental agents such as gases, silica or asbestos, various different types of infections and chronic inflammatory processes such as sarcoidosis and Wegener’s granulomatosis. Pulmonary fibrosis may also be associated with a medical condition referred to as hypersensitivity pneumonitis which involves a heightened immune reaction to inhaled occupational chemicals or organic dusts. In most cases of inhaled causes, fibrosis is triggered by inhaling dust which is already contaminated by certain types of animal, fungal or bacterial products. There are also certain cases of pulmonary fibrosis which occur without any identifiable triggering factors. Such cases are usually associated with a medical condition commonly known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This peculiar condition does not respond to any kind of medical therapy. Pulmonary fibrosis may sometimes be referred to as diffuse fibrosing alveolitis, Hamman-Rich Syndrome or chronic interstitial pneumonitis.

Prognosis

One needs to be well aware of the fact that pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive type of disease. This means that no treatment may improve the condition and that the condition will not improve all by itself. The speed of its progression may vary from person to person and in some cases pulmonary fibrosis may remain stagnant for many years. Most patients who are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis express great concerns about their life expectancy. Life expectancy can only be discussed once all the factors are taken into consideration. The prognosis usually relies on the information gathered through numerous researches throughout the years. These researches have included thousands of people who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. Fortunately enough, there are certain factors which may imply a longer survival rate among those who are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Such factors include a history of current cigarette smoking at the time of diagnosis, a positive response to treatment after three to six months, less lung damage based on the high resolution CT scans at the time of diagnosis, minimal shortness of breath at diagnosis, symptoms that began less than one year before the diagnosis, being a female and being less than 50 years old. One should be aware of the fact that each prognosis is only a prediction and it does not necessarily have to be 100 percent true. Outcome for each patient cannot be given with absolute certainty. According to numerous different sorts of scientific studies on idiopathic types of pulmonary fibrosis, an average life expectancy for those who are diagnosed with this medical condition ranges between 2 and 4 years following the diagnosis. There are also between 30 and 50 percent of cases which can be characterized by a life expectancy of 5 years following the diagnosis of the disease. Those who suffer from pulmonary fibrosis are faced with many problems and challenges. There are people who want to know all about the statistics because they believe that it is easier for them to cope with the disease and its dreadful outcome that way. On the other hand, there are those who do not want to know anything about the statistical data because they believe that it is only frightening and confusing and that it is not personal enough to be considered useful at all. The healthcare provider is the best person to discuss the life expectancy and all other related issues, but in spite of that fact even he or she cannot provide the patient with exact things that need to be expected. The decision upon the amount and type of information concerning the medical condition and its prognosis is solely up to the patient.

Quality of Life in Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis

One of the most important aspects of idiopathic cases of pulmonary fibrosis is the severe impairment of the levels of independence, physical health and the overall quality of life. The depressive symptoms and the decreased overall quality of life are directly related to the effective/emotional scale and the subjective breathlessness which is present in each case. Fortunately enough, one may try indulging in numerous different types of rehabilitation programs which are aimed at all the psychosocial and physiological aspects of the medical condition and are very efficient in enhancing the overall quality of life of the patient. There are not that many studies conducted regarding the quality of life of the patients who suffer from pulmonary fibrosis. One certain thing is that those people act much slower in most everyday tasks and situations. 

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