Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month Highlights Realities of Rare Disease

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a debilitating disease that leads to scarring of the lungs – with no known cure. In the current media landscape of COVID-19 and a heightened interest in respiratory health, awareness of PF has never been more important. Yet according to a 2020 study commissioned by the PFF, 86% of Americans do not know the symptoms of PF. In support of September’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month (PFAM), the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) is sharing realities regarding this devastating disease and the impact it has on over 200,000 Americans.

Pulmonary fibrosis shares symptoms with other illnesses

Few people understand the symptoms of PF, which include shortness of breath, fatigue and a dry, persistent cough. These symptoms are common to many illnesses, which creates difficulty in diagnosing the disease. Other symptoms include weakness, chest discomfort, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

“PF diagnosis often comes in its later, harder-to-treat stages, because its symptoms mimic those of other illnesses, such as asthma, COPD or even heart failure,” said Dr. Gregory Cosgrove, chief medical officer of the PFF. “Taking note of warning signs and proactively speaking with your doctor is crucial to identify an appropriate treatment plan before the disease advances.”

Pulmonary fibrosis has some identifiable causes

While specific types of PF, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), do not have a known cause, many do. Certain genetic and age factors, for example, put thousands of Americans at risk of PF every year – particularly those over the age of 60 and those with a family history of interstitial lung disease. In addition, many populations are more likely to be diagnosed with PF than others, including those who suffer from autoimmune disorders, those who have had occupational or environmental exposures or radiation treatment to the chest, or those who have used certain medications.

Pulmonary fibrosis affects each patient differently

While there is no cure for PF, every person diagnosed has a unique experience with the disease. Multiple factors contribute to the quality of life and longevity of PF patients, including the timeliness of diagnosis, treatment plans and overall health.

“Although no one can predict each individual outcome, it’s important patients maintain a healthy lifestyle and work closely with their doctors,” added Cosgrove.

Pulmonary fibrosis and COVID-19

In the current climate of COVID-19, it is important to note that while ‘fibrosis of the lung,’ or lung scarring, can be a consequence of COVID-19, it is not the same as PF. For COVID-19 patients who have severe respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilation, fibrosis may occur as a result of the prolonged, devastating lung injury. While scarring on the lungs in COVID-19 is very serious, it is different than other conditions that cause progressive pulmonary fibrosis seen in patients with interstitial lung disease.

PFAM encourages needed research and understanding of the disease

Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month in September provides an opportunity for patients, loved ones and healthcare providers to spread the word about this disease. Our social media campaign, “30 Facts in 30 Days,” will educate the public with important facts about the disease and a “Portraits of PF” video series will showcase the day-to-day reality of life with PF.

To learn more, visit www.AboutPF.org. To learn more about Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month and to get involved, visit https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/get-involved/pf-awareness.

*PFF National Awareness Survey 2020: https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/docs/default-source/marketing-brochures/pff-national-consumer-survey-report—for-review-updated-2-19-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=c479c8d_0