3 November 2021
Frequently asked questions about Pulmonary Fibrosis
It is a process in which the lung tissue is damaged and produces scars that gradually replace the healthy tissue, which leads to a gradual worsening of symptoms and lung function.
It means that a specific cause has not been identified. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is the most known fibrosing interstitial lung disease.
In Spain, per 100,000 inhabitants 7.6 cases of diffuse interstitial lung disease (DILD) are diagnosed. The most frequent of the idiopathic DILD is IPF, and it is estimated that there are currently between 7,500 and 10,000 patients in Spain with this disease.
Dyspnoea or feeling of breathlessness on exertion.
The Velcro-type dry crackles are characteristic sounds of fibrosing interstitial lung diseases (ILD) and, in particular, pulmonary fibrosis. Its name arises from the noise made by Velcro on separating its two layers, which similar to what the doctor hears in the auscultation with the stethoscope.
It is the term used to refer to “club fingers”. The characteristic of this sign is the painless and insensitive enlargement of the ends of the fingers and toes, due to a thickening of the tissue that is found below the nails of the fingers and toes. The nail is curved downwards, similar to the shape of the rounded part of a spoon turned upside down. It is a common sign in cases of idiopathic lung fibrosis, although it can be present in another type of disease.
For a proper diagnosis of these very complex diseases a multidisciplinary team is required, which includes different specialists such as chest physicians, radiologists, pathologists, and specialist in autoimmune diseases, among others, who have experience in the management of interstitial lung diseases.
In those cases where the diagnostic tests are performed, and after a multidisciplinary assessment of the risks and benefits, it is considered that it is necessary in order to reach a diagnosis of the type of fibrosing diffuse interstitial lung disease.
Home oxygen therapy in the cases indicated, education on healthy lifestyles, lung rehabilitation, and vaccination for the prevention of respiratory infections.
Anti-fibrosis treatments: pirfenidone and nintedanib.
Diarrhoea (62%), nausea (24%), vomiting (12%), and changes in liver function (14%).
Skin rash (30%), photosensitivity (9%), nausea (36%), abdominal discomfort (24%), dyspepsia (19%), anorexia (13%), fatigue (26%), and elevation of transaminase levels more than three times the normal value (4%).
After the initial diagnosis of the disease, it has a mean survival that varies between two and five years.
For the prevention of the gastrointestinal effects it is recommended to take the drug during meals; to eat small amounts of food more often throughout the day instead of a few large meals; and to avoid foods that are fried, rich in fats, or spicy, as well as fizzy drinks. If there is nausea or a change in gastrointestinal rhythm, prokinetic drugs (that help the intestinal transit) can be prescribed, as well as a gastric protector, antidiarrhoeals to minimise the symptoms, and to provide dietary recommendations arising from the consultation with the nutritionist. If the adverse effects are more common at a specific time of the day (morning, afternoon, or night), the doses could be reduced. If this measure is also ineffective, the withdrawal of the drug for 10-15 days will be assessed, being able to be re-introduced gradually after the symptoms improve.
As regards the skin effects (photosensitivity, skin rash), it is advised to avoid exposure to the sun in hours of maximum intensity (midday or first hours of the afternoon); the use of hats, sunglasses, long trousers and long-sleeve T-shirts, as well as a sun protector with a protection factor greater than 50 against UV-A and UV-B rays. In cases where a skin rash persists for more than 7 days, the drug should be withdrawn for 15 days and re-introduced gradually after the rash is resolved. If the skin rash has urticaria characteristics or develops in areas of the body not exposed to sunlight, it must be considered of allergic origin. In this case, the drug should be withdrawn permanently and treatment with antihistamines and oral prednisone should be prescribed.
Prior to flying, it would be advisable to request medical advice, performing arterial blood gases in indicated cases and/or a hypoxaemia test that could determine the need for supplementary oxygen therapy during the flight.