A potentially serious medical condition known as pulmonary fibrosis may be adversely impacted by the aging process. Luckily, there are a number of treatment and prevention methods.
Pulmonary Fibrosis Overview
This ailment causes tissue in the lungs to thicken and stiffen. If not treated, this process could lead to damage and eventual scarring that threatens the function of the lung and the entire respiratory system.
Pulmonary fibrosis may be precipitated by a host of biological, environmental and lifestyle factors. Common biological factors include diseases, infections and various autoimmune disorders that impact either lung function or structure. In some cases, environmental factors like chronic exposure to airborne toxins or pollutants might increase one’s risk. Lifestyle choices such as smoking or any other vice that has the potential to compromise lung function could exacerbate the onset of the disease.
One less common factor is the usage of specific medications. Radiation treatments, such as those utilized to treat lung cancer, could lead to pulmonary fibrosis. That said, in certain instances, there may be no known or discernible cause for the ailment’s existence. Cases that have no apparent origin are medically referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The symptoms patients experience may vary depending upon the underlying cause as well as the severity of the disease. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, tiredness, diminished appetite, unintended weight loss, chest discomfort, exercise intolerance and generalized body aches and malaise.
Connection between Age and Pulmonary Fibrosis
Many health professionals specializing in lung function believe that age is the most significant risk factor when predicting the onset of pulmonary fibrosis. This is because older people are more susceptible to:
- Lung Wear and Tear – Like any other organ or bodily system, older ones have likely been exposed to a greater degree of usage and potentially harmful substances and particles like allergens and pollutants. Additionally, aging individuals might also possess or have experienced illnesses that have already impacted their lung function.
- Changes to Lung Structure – As people grow older, the structure of their lungs is believed to change. For example, lung tissue is thought to become narrower, which could impede airways and lay the groundwork for the development of numerous diseases.
The specific treatments chosen by the physicians of afflicted patients will depend upon factors such as the patient’s age, general health, the specific underlying cause and the condition’s severity. Common treatments include:
- Medications – There are a variety of prescription medications available that are designed to slow the progression of the ailment.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation – During this form of therapy, an afflicted individual is taught various breathing exercises and activities that are geared towards rebuilding lung strength.
- Oxygen Therapy – For individuals whose condition has progressed, the use of oxygen therapy might help ease certain physical manifestations such as breathing difficulties or chest pain.
- Lung Transplantation – In people whose fibrosis has progressed to an advanced stage, lung transplantation might be needed.
In cases where the precipitating factors were genetic ailments or idiopathic in nature, prevention can be difficult. That said, simple lifestyle or environmental changes could significantly decrease one’s chances of developing this illness. Those who exercise, avoid detrimental vices like cigarette smoking, and do not work or live in or near potentially toxic environments could greatly decrease their chances of developing pulmonary fibrosis.