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Pulmonary Fibrosis Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors

Pulmonary fibrosis can develop slowly or quickly. In some people, the disease stays the same for years. Usually, a person's breathing symptoms become worse over time. A person with pulmonary fibrosis eventually may be short of breath even at rest.

What Are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis?

  • Shortness of breath, particularly during exercise
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Gradual unintended weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Clubbing (widening and rounding) of the tips of the fingers or toes

What Causes Pulmonary Fibrosis?

In most cases, there is no known cause for the disease. In these cases, it is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or IPF.

Things that may increase the risk of pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Certain viral infections
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants, including silica and hard metal dusts, bacteria and animal proteins, and gases and fumes
  • The use of certain medicines
  • Genetics. Some families have at least two members who have pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 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.

Learn more about diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.

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