Types, Causes and Risk Factors of Pulmonary Fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a form of interstitial lung disease that causes scarring in the lungs. There are over 200 different types of PF and in most cases, there's no known cause.
Here's a look at some of the different categories of PF.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)
The most common type of PF is IPF, which stands for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This means this type of PF has no known cause. Approximately 50,000 new cases of IPF are diagnosed each year. Most IPF patients first start noticing symptoms between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. It is more common in men, but the number of cases of IPF in women is on the rise.
PF from Diseases
Some cases of PF are caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma or Sjogren's syndrome. Certain viral infections and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are also risk factors for PF. GERD is a condition in which acid from your stomach backs up into your throat. Some people who have GERD may breathe in tiny drops of acid from their stomachs, which may injure the lungs.
Familial PF is very rare. PF is considered familial when two or more members within the same family have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or any other form of idiopathic interstitial pneumonia (IIP). There are genes that have been linked to PF but much is still unknown about this field. If someone in your family has had any type of interstitial lung disease, be sure to speak with your doctor and a genetic counselor about your risk.
PF from Exposures
PF can be caused by exposure to hazardous materials. Examples include occupational exposures such as asbestos or silica. Some cases of PF are caused by breathing in bird or animal droppings. Radiation treatments and certain types of medications can cause PF. Cigarette smoking also increases a person's risk of developing PF.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed January 17, 2018.