7 Common Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive chronic lung disease where the tissue in the lungs becomes thick and stiff, making it increasingly difficult to breathe and leading to a low level of oxygen in the blood. In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms can mimic many other illnesses which can make it difficult to diagnose, and often the symptoms are ignored until they become more severe.
Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with pulmonary fibrosis:
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath (dyspnea) is the most commonly associated symptom of pulmonary fibrosis. It begins with shortness of breath during physical exertion but as the disease progresses, patients will find they suffer shortness of breath even while resting.
A persistent cough is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, but because coughing is associated with many different lung diseases, it is not automatically linked to PF. However, many other lung diseases have a cough which produces a lot of mucus, whereas PF patients experience a dry cough.
Fatigue is much more than just feeling tired and cannot usually be remedied by a good night’s sleep. Fatigue is a common symptom in many chronic illnesses and can be seriously debilitating and affect the quality of life for those living with pulmonary fibrosis.
Weight loss in pulmonary fibrosis patients tends to occur as the disease progresses. A general lack of appetite and feelings of nausea are often to blame which may be caused by the medications used to treat the disease, rather than the disease itself. Depression, which is common for people living with pulmonary fibrosis, can also lead to weight loss.
Shallow or fast breathing (tachypnea) is a common symptom of pulmonary fibrosis and as the disease progresses, low oxygen levels in the blood can lead to difficulty in breathing and cause patients to breathe rapidly. Typically, a healthy person will take between 12 and 20 breaths per minutes, whereas someone with pulmonary fibrosis will take more than 20 breaths in the same time frame.
Aching Joints and Muscles
As the body’s oxygen levels begin to decline, this causes pain in the joints and muscles as they aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis patients can develop pulmonary fibrosis due to the spread of inflammation, which can make joints and muscles hurt even more.
Digital clubbing, or clubbing of the fingers or toes, occurs due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. It tends to appear in the latter stages of the disease so should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible. The tips of the fingers or toes become rounded and enlarged, resembling drumsticks.
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