Causes Of Scarring Of The Lungs: Its Treatment And Prognosis

Scarring or fibrosis of the lungs is seen as thickening of the tissue around and in-between the air sacs in the lungs. As a result it becomes difficult for oxygen to pass in to the blood. Scarring may occur due to various factors — prolonged exposure to toxins, some diseases and medical conditions, and radiation therapy.

It manifests as a chronic, dry, hacking cough, significant weight loss, rapid heart rate, exhaustion and curving of the fingernails. Symptoms seem negligible at first and then gradually progress with time. But they tend to vary from one individual to another.

What Causes Scarring Of The Lungs?

Autoimmune diseases: Cause the body’s immune mechanism to attack itself.

Certain autoimmune disease can cause scarring of the lungs, these are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Churg-strauss syndrome
  • Polymyositis
  • Dermatomyositis

Chemical exposure: An exposure to chemicals can also contribute to pulmonary scarring. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke, asbestos fibers, silica dust, grain dust, some gases and radiation can produce scarring and impairment of the lungs.

Drugs: Some medications increase your risk of developing lung fibrosis.

Medicines which are known to trigger scarring are:

  • Heart medications such as amiodarone
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Antibiotics such as sulfasalazine

Idiopathic: sometimes, there may be no identifiable cause.

Genetics: 10 – 15 % of people having pulmonary fibrosis have a family member who has it too. Researchers say that certain genes are linked to the condition, however, more study about the role of genetics is necessary.

Treatment For Scarring Of The Lungs

There is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. It isn’t possible to reverse the lung scarring, but some treatments help improve your breathing as well as decelerate the progression of the disease.

  • Prednisone will be prescribed by your doctor to suppress the immune mechanism and decrease inflammation.
  • N-acetylcysteine, an antioxidant is often prescribed along with other medicines to slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Pirfenidone, an antifibrotic drug reduces the scarring in the lungs.
  • Oxygen therapy may be needed to help you breathe and sleep better.
  • You may also need pulmonary rehabilitation. This comprises of exercise, education, and support to learn how to breathe more easily.
  • Quit smoking. Furthermore, steer clear of second-hand smoke. This slows down the progression of the disease and also enhances breathing.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • What’s more, you must exercise regularly, a minimum of thrice a week. Follow an exercise plan developed by your doctor. Exercise perks up lung function, fortifies the heart, and strengthens the muscles.
  • Get good rest and manage your stress well.
  • Young individuals who fail to respond to these treatments will require a lung transplant.

Prognosis Of Scarring Of The Lungs

Prognosis for scarring of the lung is moderately poor. The rate at which the fibrosis affects the lungs varies. Scarring is irreversible, but if you adhere to your doctors instructions, the rate at which the condition progresses can be slowed down. By and large, people diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis live for 3 – 5 years.

Certain complications are associated with disease as well including – respiratory failure. When this occurs your lungs no longer work as they should and they cannot get adequate oxygen to the blood. Also, pulmonary fibrosis increases your risk of developing lung cancer.