Most people learn that they have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) only after experiencing symptoms or after the disease has progressed. In some cases, patients discover that they have IPF when tests for other lung problems reveal the pattern of lung scarring associated with IPF.
Early signs and symptoms of IPF may include the following:
- A persistent cough that does not produce any phlegm
- Shortness of breath, sometimes even during normal daily activities
- A doctor hears “Velcro®-like” crackles deep in the lungs
Over time, more symptoms may appear or become more severe:
- You may experience shortness of breath, even at rest
- Your dry cough may become more hacking, and you may experience bouts of coughing that you cannot control
- You may easily tire, even during light activities
- Clubbing (enlargement) of fingers may develop over time
- You may require supplemental oxygen therapy due to decreased oxygen saturation of the blood
Disease progression varies from person to person. Some people experience a rapid onset of symptoms due to lung damage caused by IPF. Others may experience a slower progression. The exact course of disease progression is difficult to predict; for that reason, doctors cannot be sure how rapidly IPF will progress for a given patient.
Many factors, including other health problems or advanced age, can affect your prognosis. On average, patients live about 2 to 5 years after they have been diagnosed. Some people with IPF live for 10 or more years following their diagnosis, while others experience a rapid decline in health.