Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Aching Muscles and Joints
PF starts by affecting the lungs, making respiratory issues the most common symptoms. However, as the disease progresses and the lungs become more damaged, they become unable to correctly transport oxygen into the organs and tissues of the body, leading to aching muscles and joints.
The most common symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are cough and shortness of breath. Coughing can become chronic and is typically progressive in pulmonary fibrosis. Intense coughing spells can comprise the clinical features of an acute exacerbation — with coughing and flu-like symptoms intensifying shortness of breath.
Clubbing of the fingertips and toes is a symptom seen in PF and other heart and lung diseases that reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood. The symptom is evident when fingertips are enlarged and rounded in contrast to the rest of the finger. A finger with clubbing at the tips resembles a drumstick-like shape.
Fatigue, sometimes described as overwhelming tiredness or physical malaise, is a common symptom of PF. Generally, fatigue is characterized by a lack of energy that does not improve after rest or normally sufficient amounts of sleep. People who struggle with fatigue describe the symptom as unrelenting exhaustion that inhibits daily activities and negatively affects their quality of life.
Fast shallow breathing, or tachypnea, is one of several breathing difficulties experienced by PF patients. Breathing problems are common because the disease causes progressive scarring in the lungs, which inhibits the normal exchange of oxygen gas needed for healthy breathing and blood flow. Low blood oxygen levels lead to shortness of breath (dypsnea) and shallow breathing.
Shortness of Breath
Along with a persistent cough, shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is among the most common symptoms of PF. Patients often notice breathlessness when exercising or exerting themselves physically, but as the disease progresses, dyspnea begins to occur even when engaging in simple tasks such as walking, bathing, or speaking.
As PF progresses, patients may start to lose weight. Several factors contribute may contribute to this weight loss, including loss of or decreased appetite linked to medications that cause nausea; persistent cough and cough medications that cause dry mouth, nausea, or drowsiness; and depression, which is common among patients with chronic diseases.