Postinflammatory Pulmonary Fibrosis

A permanent feeling of tightness or trouble while breathing, could be due to a lung condition called postinflammatory pulmonary fibrosis. To understand its signs, treatment and prevalence, read on.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
Lung diseases are serious illnesses that affect the lungs, and can cause long-term harm with painful effects, on the human body. There are 3 main areas of the lung, that can be affected by disorders: the airway tubes, the blood vessels and the lung tissue. In this article, learn about a rarer type of lung tissue disease, postinflammatory pulmonary fibrosis and its details and treatment options.

What is Postinflammatory Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Fibrosis is the medical name given to excessive growth of connective tissues, in an organ or tissue. When the body is trying to heal itself, it encourages tissue growth, as a way of sealing the wound. But when the growth becomes too much, as opposed to the wound itself and excess tissue is grown, fibrosis is said to have occurred. An example of fibrosis is scarring, where the skin in that region changes in color and texture, and never regains its original form.

With postinflammatory pulmonary fibrosis, the sensitive tissues in the lungs scar or thicken due to fibrosis. With such increase in thickness, the muscles become taut and rigid. This reduces the lungs ability to expand and contract, and hence difficulty in breathing. There is no exact cause for such fibrosis. Usually this condition occurs, after some disease and infection has attacked the lungs. While there are at least a hundred lung diseases and various causes, that result in such growth, here are some common ones:
  • Inhalation of organic and inorganic gases, pollutants, vapors and fumes
  • Smoking
  • Viral infections
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Connective tissue diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma
  • Occupational diseases like hypersensitivity pneumonitis and silicosis
Workers in mines of coal and precious metals, ship workers and sand blasters, are at a higher risk of lung diseases and hence fibrosis, due to the nature of their work. Smokers, especially over 40 years old individuals, are at a risk. Research in this field has shown the chance of a genetic disposition with this condition.

Symptoms & Statistics

Signs and indicators of such a lung condition are:
  • Permanent difficulty in breathing
  • Pains in different joins and muscles
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Chronic dry deep cough
  • Feelings of fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath during exertion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bluish tint to skin (severe symptom)
  • Stunted growth of the fingertips (clubbing)
Cases of this disorder occur at a rate of 3 -5 victims in a population of 100,000. Approximately 5 million people are affected with this condition, in the entire world.

Prognosis

The most obvious symptom of this condition is trouble while breathing, when exerting oneself. But such a symptom does not alarm the individual, because he might feel he is not used to the exercise or just inactive. When breathing becomes difficult in simple, less strenuous activities, like walking or, even while sitting still or sleeping, that's when an individual realizes that something is wrong. The first step in diagnosing, is a physical examination. Standard tests are chest x-rays and a high resolution computerized tomography (HRCT). This lung condition is varied in type and each case has unique causes, so misdiagnoses can be made. The most accurate and final step in testing, is a lung biopsy, which carries out an extensive tissue sample analysis.

Once such scarring or tissue growth develops on the lungs, it is irreversible. Treatment is based on relieving the symptoms and trying to keep the growth from progressing. Anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids form the major type of medication given. Smokers have to quit, and those who have contracted this condition as an occupational hazard, are advised to avoid such an environment completely. In very severe cases, drug therapy does not work and a lung transplant is the only viable option left. Postinflammatory pulmonary fibrosis is commonly diagnosed, in patients above 45, as the symptoms become more apparent. As with most lung disorders, the outlook may be bleak but with the right drugs and following a healthy lifestyle, this condition can be beaten.