Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a lung disease that develops when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. The scar tissue builds up in the air sacs of the lungs, preventing oxygen from entering the blood.
Pulmonary fibrosis belongs to a group of diseases called interstitial lung diseases, which include over 200 related illnesses. Typical symptoms of PF include shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue, weight loss, and aching in muscles and joints.
The disease may develop quickly or slowly, and it can be caused by many things. The most common causes are cigarette smoking, viral infections (influenza A, hepatitis C, HIV, herpes virus 6, and others), exposure to environmental pollutants, and the use of certain medicines such as amiodarone, methotrexate, and bleomycin. Genetics and gastroesophageal reflux may also be a factor in causing the disease.
When the origin or cause of the disease cannot be identified, the disease is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Although there is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, there are several treatments for the many symptoms of the disease. For the symptoms to be treated, the specific type of pulmonary fibrosis must be diagnosed. The doctor in charge of your treatment may suggest several exams, since there is no single test that can conclusively diagnose pulmonary fibrosis by itself.
Arterial blood gas analysis
Arterial blood carries oxygen from the lungs to the heart to be pumped around the body. The scar tissue that forms in the lungs of people with pulmonary fibrosis prevents oxygen from entering the blood.
To assess the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in arterial blood in patients suspected of having pulmonary fibrosis, an arterial blood gas analysis is conducted.
This analysis may be ordered to complement other diagnostic tests, or when a patient has symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting.
Abnormal results of the blood gas components, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, indicate that patients are not getting enough oxygen or they are not getting rid of enough carbon dioxide. However, the results from this test alone cannot be used to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis.
For an accurate diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, there has to be an effective collaboration between doctors, radiologists and pathologists, and some additional tests may be required.
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