The Factors Behind Pulmonary Fibrosis and How It Is Identified
What Causes It?Pulmonary fibrosis is the end result of long-term inflammation and an abnormal build-up of collagen within the supporting structures of the lung (the interstitial tissue).
There are known causes of the lung damage seen in pulmonary fibrosis. These causes include:
- Long-term exposure to occupational and/or environmental inhalants, such as organic or inorganic dusts, and a variety of irritative or toxic gases.
- Certain antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs
- Radiation, such as that used to treat breast cancer.
There are many other conditions where the cause of pulmonary fibrosis is not known. The most common is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Other conditions that are associated with pulmonary fibrosis but where the cause is not known include:
- Collagen vascular diseases, such as:
(Click Causes of Pulmonary Fibrosis to learn more about each of these causes.)
In order to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis, a healthcare provider will ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests. Some of these tests may allow your healthcare provider to obtain a sample of lung tissue that is then examined under a microscope.
Looking at samples of tissue from several places in your lungs under a microscope is the best way for your healthcare provider to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis. Video-assisted thoracoscopy is typically the procedure that healthcare providers will use to collect the tissue. For this procedure, the healthcare provider inserts a small, lighted tube with a camera (endoscope) into the chest through small incisions between the ribs. The endoscope provides a video image of the lungs and allows the healthcare provider to collect tissue samples. This procedure must be done in the hospital under general anesthesia.
(Click Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis to learn more about the tests used in diagnosing pulmonary fibrosis.)