Doctors do not know what causes idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or why some people get it. Idiopathic means the cause is not known. The condition may be due to the lungs responding to an unknown substance or injury. Genes may play a role in developing IPF. The disease occurs most often in people between 50 and 70 years old.
When you have IPF, your lungs become scarred and stiffened. This makes it hard for you to breathe. In some people, IPF gets worse quickly over months or a few years. In others, IPF worsens over a much longer time.
Abnormally high levels of red blood cells due to low blood oxygen levels
High blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the followinig:
Breathing that is harder, faster, or shallower (you are unable to take a deep breath)
To lean forward when sitting to breathe comfortably
Sleepiness or confusion
Dark mucus when you cough
Blue fingertips or skin around your fingernails
American Thoracic Society (ATS), European Respiratory Society (ERS), Japanese Respiratory Society (JRS), and Latin American Thoracic Association (ALAT). Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: evidence based guideline for diagnosis and management. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011; 183:788-824.
Selman M, Morrison LD, Noble PW, King TE Jr. Idiopathic interstitial pneumonias. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al., eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 57.
Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.