Pulmonary fibrosis is a respiratory condition that causes thick and stiff tissue in the lungs, followed by scarring. It can be developed as a secondary disease to tuberculosis, pneumonia, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis or scleroderma. Other causes include occupational and environmental exposure to silica dust, asbestos fibers, grain dust, and animal droppings, radiation treatments and medication like chemotherapy drugs, heart medications or some antibiotics.
However, in the majority of the patients, the reasons for the development of pulmonary fibrosis are unknown, which is termed idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
IPF is the most common interstitial lung disease. Most common among middle-aged or older men, it can be developed by anyone.
As the scarring affects the lungs, patients often experience shortness of breath and dry, hacking cough; in advanced stages of the disease, symptoms can also include fatigue, inexplicable weight loss, clubbing of the fingertips, and aching muscles and joints.
How Aching Muscles and Joints Affect Patients with PF
Pulmonary fibrosis starts by affecting the lungs, making the common symptoms of the disease respiratory. But, as the disease progresses and the lungs become more damaged, lungs become unable to correctly transport oxygen into the organs and tissues of the body leading to aching muscles and joints.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 40% of rheumatoid arthritis patients also develop pulmonary fibrosis from the spread of inflammation, which results in aching muscles and joints.
Patients with pulmonary fibrosis can also experience mercury-induced lung damage, which results in overall symptoms like fatigue, mind fog, short-term memory loss, concentration problems, and headaches, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Exposure to toxic substances is can cause pulmonary fibrosis and mercury can accumulate in the central nervous system, endocrine system, and every major organ. When the accumulation occurs in the muscles, patients experience pain; when it attacks the joints, patients may develop arthritis.
Management of Aching Muscles and Joints by PF Patients
There is currently no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, but there are treatments designed to address the symptoms.
Different types of medication are recommended to treat pulmonary fibrosis, including corticosteroids (prednisone) to reduce inflammation, as well as nintedanib (Ofev®) and pirfenidone (Esbriet®, Pirfenex®, Pirespa®), which are used to slow the progression of the disease.
Oxygen therapy is usually prescribed to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, while pulmonary rehabilitation teaches patients how to exercise the lungs and manage the disease.
Not all patients are candidates for lung transplant, but it is a treatment option considered particularly for younger patients in good physical condition.
Regarding the management of aching muscles and joints, there are techniques to lessen symptoms. When it is associated with other associated diseases, specialized treatment is recommended. Lifestyle alterations also help. While exercise can be difficult for someone experiencing pain, it keeps muscles stronger and may help patients feel less tired. Resting and relaxing when needed can also help.
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