Breathlessness and chronic cough are the most common symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Breathlessness is usually worse when performing activities that have not previously caused any shortness of breath. Please note that feeling short of breath is not a normal sign of aging. Talk to your health-care provider if you are short of breath when doing everyday activities like household chores or walking up the stairs.
A hacking unexplained cough, lasting longer than eight weeks that is usually dry (does not produce any phlegm). The doctor may also hear “velcro-like” crackles when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.
Other symptoms may include loss of appetite and energy, ‘clubbing” of the fingers (thickening of the finger tips and nails), joint and muscle pain.
Recognizing pulmonary fibrosis can be a challenge since the symptoms of breathlessness and cough are common to many lung diseases. Sometimes people may need to see more than one specialist, including a respirologist, to help make a diagnosis.
A high-resolution computer tomography CT-scan and sometimes a chest X-ray will help determine if there are any changes related to lung scarring
A six-minute walk test will help to determine the level of oxygen saturation in the blood with activity and at rest..
A pulmonary function test (breathing test) will help to determine how much air you can blow out and how much oxygen can cross over into the bloodstream.
A bronchoscopy is a test that takes cells or tissue from inside the lungs that is sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Patients with an unclear diagnosis sometimes need a lung biopsy – removal of a small piece of lung tissue for examination to confirm the diagnosis.