Pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of lungs due to certain conditions. This lung disease is difficult to diagnose as its symptoms are very similar to other pulmonary disorders. This HealthHearty article will provide you some effective diagnostic methods which may help to find out the disease in its initial stage.
Pulmonary fibrosis is an interstitial lung disease in which scarring occurs inside the lungs. It is a disease which affects the tissues of alveoli or the air sacs present in the lungs. There are many causes of pulmonary fibrosis, such as exposure to harmful substances in the environment, chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, medications, etc. Sometimes, genetic predisposition may also be a cause of this disease. When the cause of this disease is not known, it is described as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Diagnosis of this disease is difficult because it often mimics the symptoms of other conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or even heart attack. Its diagnosis is done with the help of certain tests and diagnostic tools.
Before Using Diagnostic Tools
In pulmonary fibrosis, there is a heavy and deep scarring to the tissues of the lungs. This is mainly due to the excess production of collagen. The scarring can be detected using advanced diagnostic tools. But before that the doctor may like to ask you a few questions regarding your symptoms as well as your medical history.
These questions are mostly regarding:
- The nature and duration of your symptoms
- The nature of your work
- Medical history
- Type of medications that you are currently on
- Possibility of exposure to hazardous substances
- Occurrence of this disease in your family
- Whether you have undergone any radiation therapy for cancer treatment
The doctor may also try to find out any physical signs and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis in order to find the cause and ascertain the possibility of the disease. If the doctor suspects the presence of disease, he may ask you to go for advanced diagnostic tests.
As mentioned above, the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis alone cannot affirm the possibility of the disease. Hence, it would be unwise to rely on a single test for diagnostic purposes. The doctor usually evaluates the result of several tests to diagnose the condition. Given below are some of the common diagnostic tools for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
Chest X-ray is used to take an image of heart and lungs. The shadowy portions in the X-ray may confirm the possibility of scar tissue. However, this is not the most reliable method of pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis as many people with this disease have perfectly normal chest X-rays. About 16% of patients suffering from this condition do not reveal the presence of scar tissue in their X-rays.
High Resolution Computerized Tomography
High Resolution Computerized Tomography (HRCT) is nothing but the form of X-ray that is more detailed and sharper than the normal X-ray. It clearly shows the presence or absence of the scar tissue along with the extent of damage to the lungs. HRCT is an effective diagnostic tool to diagnose the disease at an early stage.
Spirometry is a pulmonary function test conducted with a special device called spirometer. The person blows air into this device after taking a deep breath. The amount of air expelled by the person and the rate of expulsion are measured in this device. Since pulmonary fibrosis impairs the respiratory function, the person is unable to expel normal amount of air at normal rate.
Exercise testing is done to check the functioning of the lungs when the person is in active state. A machine measures the amount of oxygen taken in and the carbon dioxide expelled out.
In this test, a thin rubber tube with a light and camera is inserted into the lungs of the patients through mouth or nose. The camera captures the pictures of the interior of the lungs so as to detect the presence of scar tissue. Sometimes, forceps may also be inserted to collect the lung tissue for the purpose of biopsy.
After the diagnosis indeed confirms the possibility of pulmonary fibrosis, treatment options are recommended according to the severity of disease. Medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation are some of the common treatment options. Lung transplant is recommended as a last resort.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.