Doctors from PGI held an awareness talk on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a devastating, irreversible and rare disease that globally affects roughly 5 million individuals a year, on Wednesday.
IPF is a type of lung disease that results in damage and scarring (fibrosis) of lungs. Due to this, the lungs shrink in size, affecting their ability to deliver oxygen to the body. The major symptoms are in the form of progressive breathlessness and persistent dry cough. The disease affects people usually above the age of 50 years. Men are more commonly affected than women and the disease is seen more often in smokers than non-smokers.
Highlighting the incidence and symptoms of IPF, professor Digambar Behera, senior professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine, PGI, said, "In the past few years, I have observed an increase in the number of IPF cases. The disease is such that its symptoms tend to vary from individual to individual. However, initial symptoms always involve breathlessness upon exertion and dry cough that lasts longer than eight weeks. If any individual experiences these symptoms, it is extremely vital that they visit a doctor for early and accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment and better patient care."
Emphasizing on the causes of IPF, Dr Ritesh Agarwal, department of pulmonary medicine, PGI, said, "IPF is known to usually affect middle-aged and older adults aged between 40 to 70 years. Smokers are at a higher risk of contracting IPF in comparison to those who have never smoked. However, genetics can also play a role in the development of IPF."
Commenting on the developments and progress in IPF treatment, Dr Sahajal Dhooria, department of pulmonary medicine, PGI, said, "There is currently no cure or procedures that can remove the scarring from lungs. Further, treatments available will only reduce scarring progression and may not necessarily reduce the symptoms of cough, breathlessness and other symptoms associated with the disease. Further, misdiagnosis is very easily possible wherein IPF can be mistaken for ageing, cardiac disease, bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and other types of interstitial lung diseases. While a form of treatment called corticosteroids or steroids work in other forms of interstitial lung diseases, they do not work in IPF. The most effective way to diagnose IPF at an early stage is to create awareness and make sure that all respiratory patients, especially after the age of 50, are actively checked for IPF."