Country music artist Joe Nichols is partnering with Boehringer Ingelheim to raise awareness about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Nichols’ father, Michael Nichols, suffered with IPF symptoms for three years before receiving the diagnosis, and he died from the condition at age 46.
As part of a national education campaign called Breathless: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at IPF, Joe Nichols is sharing his father’s story. The awareness campaign joins Nichols with others talking about IPF and how the disease has impacted their lives. People can visit the campaign website — www.BreathlessIPF.com – and share videos and educational content on Facebook, YouTube and Tweeter to help raise awareness about IPF.
IPF is a rare chronic fibrotic lung disease of unknown cause that occurs in adults, and it has a poor prognosis. Estimates indicate that the disease affects about 132,000 Americans, and each year about 40,000 people die from IPF. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital to managing the disease — still, about half of the people with IPF are initially misdiagnosed and suffer with symptoms for an average of almost two years before being properly diagnosed.
“Often times I look back on the last two decades with bittersweet feelings because just when my music career was taking off, my father’s health was declining,” said Nichols in a press release. “The breathlessness he experienced affected him to the point where he couldn’t walk across the room without becoming short of breath. Sadly, it took three years before my father was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and he eventually lost his fight at a young age. It’s important for me to share my story to help others, because I don’t want people to go through the physical and emotional difficulties my family did during those years before he was eventually diagnosed.”
In IPF, tissue deep in the lungs becomes thick and stiff, or scarred, over time in a process called fibrosis. As the lung tissue thickens, the lungs become unable to properly transfer oxygen into the bloodstream and, as a result, the brain and other organs don’t get the oxygen they need.
IPF is a serious condition that usually affects middle-age and older adults, and most people affected live just three to five years after diagnosis. IPF varies from person to person; in some fibrosis happens quickly, while in others the process is much slower and the disease stays the same for years.
The diagnosis of IPF can be difficult because the symptoms can be similar to other, more common lung diseases.
“Living with IPF is hard but living with this disease without being diagnosed can be worse,” said Dr. Marilyn Glassberg, professor of Medicine and Director, Rare and Interstitial Lung Disease Program, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “If you think you or someone you love might be experiencing the symptoms of IPF, then go see a doctor right away so that the proper tests and screenings can be performed. Your doctor can refer you to a lung specialist called a pulmonologist to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.”
Cough management, supplemental oxygen, and pulmonary rehabilitation are some of the available treatments for IPF. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drugs for the treatment of IPF in 2014.
Nichols, Dr. Glassberg and Boehringer are inviting all to spread the word and raise awareness about IPF .
“Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to be supporting Breathless: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at IPF as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to addressing the significant, unmet needs of people affected by respiratory diseases,” said Al Masucci, vice president, IPF Business Unit, Boehringer Ingelheim. “Despite the severity of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, many people suffer in the dark for years before receiving a diagnosis. This shouldn’t be the case, and through the campaign, we hope to educate and encourage people to recognize the signs of IPF and to see a doctor as early as possible.”