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
An Official ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT Clinical Practice Guideline: Treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. An Update of the 2011 Clinical Practice Guideline. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Jul 15;192(2):e3-19. PMID: 26177183. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26177183.
Ryu JH, Selman M, Colby TV, King TE. Idiopathic interstitial pneumonias. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 63.
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. Editorial update: 10/22/2015.