Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis refers to scarring of the lungs. It may be caused by a number of different conditions, diseases or environmental causes, though in many cases, doctors are unable to determine a cause for the scarring. There is currently no cure for the disease. Treatment for pulmonary fibrosis is mainly aimed at slowing the growth of scar tissue and relieving the symptoms of the disease. Doctors may prescribe drugs, medical therapies and protocols or surgery to extend the lives of those with pulmonary fibrosis. Researchers are aggressively exploring new types of treatment for pulmonary fibrosis, including medications, stem cell therapy, growth factor therapy and genetic research to identify gens that may be associated with the development of pulmonary fibrosis.

Drug Treatment

When prescribing medication as treatment for pulmonary fibrosis, doctors consider the cause of the scarring and choose medications accordingly. Some of the drugs commonly prescribed for treatment of pulmonary fibrosis include:

* Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants: are typically prescribed when pulmonary fibrosis occurs in conjunction with autoimmune diseases and immune system disorders

* N-acetylcysteine (NAC): is a naturally occurring antioxidant which may prevent some of the injury that is a precursor to an increase in scar tissue

* Anti-fibrotic/Anti-inflammatory drugs: can help reduce the formation of scar tissue and/or inflammation that makes breathing difficult

Non-pharmacologic Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis

Doctors may prescribe supplemental oxygen therapy for patients with pulmonary fibrosis who are not getting enough oxygen into their blood. Oxygen therapy helps reduce breathlessness and allows more physical activity. Oxygen may be prescribed all the time, or only during sleep and/or physical exertion.

People with pulmonary fibrosis may also go through pulmonary rehabilitation, a series of classes, therapies and exercise that can help restore some lung function. As a treatment for pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary rehabilitation can help improve exercise capacity and quality of life.

Surgical Treatment

People with pulmonary fibrosis make up the largest group of patients receiving lung transplants in the United States. Lung transplantation improves both life expectancy and quality of life, but patients must meet stringent requirements to be considered good candidates for a lung transplant. In addition, lung transplantation carries significant risks.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

A number of lifestyle changes can significantly improve quality of life for people with pulmonary fibrosis. They include regular physical activity, a healthy diet, smoking cessation and plenty of sleep.

Alternative Therapies

Many practitioners recommend learning relaxation techniques as part of the treatment for pulmonary fibrosis. There are also dietary changes and herbal supplements that may reduce scarring and improve breathing capacity.

Stem Cell Therapy for Pulmonary Fibrosis

A number of researchers are exploring the use of stem cell therapy as a treatment for pulmonary fibrosis. They include clinical trials being conducted in the U.S. into the use of intravenous mesenchymal stem cells to stimulate other cells into making new lung tissue.