Healthy Lung Month: Know these pulmonary fibrosis risk factors

October is Healthy Lung Month, an apt time to educate the public about the importance of protecting our lungs against mold, airborne pollutants and smoking – which put hundreds of thousands of Americans at higher risk for pulmonary fibrosis (PF). Largely unknown to the general public, PF is a progressive, debilitating lung disease for which there is no cure.

“October is the perfect time to remind people about factors that can increase the risk of developing PF, including environmental and occupational exposures,” said Dr. Amy Hajari Case, FCCP, senior medical advisor for education and awareness for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF).

While anyone can develop PF, it is more likely to occur in those that are 60 years and older, those with a family history of interstitial lung disease, and is more common in men than women. Additional risk factors include smoking, as well as environmental and occupational exposures. Below are some clues that doctors use to identify these known causes of PF.

  • Smoking: Those with a history of smoking are three times more likely to have PF or know someone affected by PF, according to the PFF. Doctors will look for stiff lungs, low blood oxygen levels and “crackles” heard in the lungs.
  • Occupational Exposures: May be identified if a patient has had significant current or prior exposure to a variety of inorganic dusts, including asbestos, silica, coal dust, beryllium and hard metal dusts.
  • Environmental Exposures: Can occur after breathing in mold spores, bacteria, animal proteins (especially from indoor or caged birds) or other known triggers for an extended period. Doctors will listen for “squeaks” heard in the lung.

“Understanding these risk factors and taking the next steps with your doctor to determine if you have PF is crucial so treatment can begin as early as possible,” added Dr. Case.

For Healthy Lung Month this October, make your lung health a priority. To get started, the PFF’s AboutPF.org includes helpful resources like a downloadable Risk List, which allows visitors to check off potential risk factors and symptoms to facilitate a discussion with their physicians. If further action needs to be taken, AboutPF.org also offers a way to find a local pulmonologist through the PFF Care Center Network with experience in the diagnosis and treatment of PF.

For more information about pulmonary fibrosis, visit www.AboutPF.org.

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About the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) mobilizes people and resources to provide access to high quality care and leads research for a cure so people with pulmonary fibrosis will live longer, healthier lives. The PFF collaborates with physicians, organizations, patients and caregivers worldwide. The PFF has a three-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Better Business Bureau and National Health Council accredited charity. For more information, visit pulmonaryfibrosis.org or call 844.TalkPFF (844.825.5733) or 312.587.9272 from outside the U.S.