Diseases Home > Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition that can be caused by several things. The most common cause appears to be long-term exposure to occupational and/or environmental inhalants. Radiation from cancer treatment and certain medications may also lead to pulmonary fibrosis. In addition, there are many other situations in which the pulmonary fibrosis causes are not known.

What Causes Pulmonary Fibrosis? -- An Overview

Pulmonary fibrosis is the medical term for scarring and thickening that occurs deep within the lung tissue. It is thought that this damage occurs as a result of repeated injury to the lung tissue, which leads to inflammation and an excess build-up of a protein known as collagen.
However, there is not just one cause for the type of lung damage seen with pulmonary fibrosis. In fact, there are many conditions that either can cause pulmonary fibrosis or are associated with it. These diseases are collectively known as interstitial lung diseases.
In some of these diseases, such as asbestosis, the pulmonary fibrosis cause is known. In other cases, it is not known why pulmonary fibrosis develops. This is the case with pulmonary fibrosis as a result of scleroderma.

Known Causes

There are a number of pulmonary fibrosis causes that are known. The largest of these include long-term exposure to occupational and/or environmental inhalants, such as organic or inorganic dusts, and a variety of irritative or toxic gases. Some examples include long-term inhalation of:
  • Asbestos fibers (asbestosis)
  • Silica dust (silicosis)
  • Other metal dust in mines or factories
  • Fumes found on farms, such as from moldy hay (farmer's lung)
Other known causes include:
  • Certain drugs, such as:



  • Radiation from cancer treatment.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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