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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Can Scarring Occur and not Be Life Threatenin

05/19/2010

Question:

After a series of tests (CT scans) doctors told my 65-year-old mother that there was fibrosis in her lungs. For the past two months she has been having a light cough and trouble breathing (it’s very mild).

My question is, does the detection of pulmonary fibrosis mean that she has a disease that is going to scar her lungs until she dies or could someone have scarring and it not be a life- treating disease? She has also been diagnosed with arthritis.

Answer:

Scar in the lung can mean many things. People can get scars from past infection or lung trauma - in this case, the scar usually does not get worse over time.

People can also get scar from interstitial lung disease. This is a more serious cause of scar and can frequently get worse over time.

Some forms of arthritis can cause interstitial lung disease (for example, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) and this type of interstitial lung disease can often be treated with medications.

Other types of interstitial lung disease (for example, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) are much less likely to respond to medications. Often, a pulmonologist can help determine the cause of the scar and can determine whether it is from past lung damage or it is due to interstitial lung disease. A pulmonologist can also determine the cause of the interstitial lung disease.

For more information:

Go to the Pulmonary Fibrosis health topic, where you can:

Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University