Life Expectancy of Pulmonary Fibrosis   

Life Expectancy of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Woman holding her chest with difficulty breathing.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Pooja Raju, M.D.

Pulmonary fibrosis, or lung scarring, is a serious disease and a life-alternating diagnosis. The good news is that doctors and researchers continue to make advancements to allow people to live longer and have a higher quality of life.

What Is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease where there is scarring and damage of the lungs, which makes it difficult for a person to breathe. The condition can worsen over time. Pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by a number of different factors, including smoking, autoimmune conditions and inhaling toxins like asbestos or coal dust.

Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Unexplained weight loss

What Is the Life Expectancy of Pulmonary Fibrosis?

“The life expectancy for someone diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis is decreased but very variable, and I would not put a specific number on it,” says Pooja Raju, M.D., medical director of Pulmonary Hypertension and Interstitial Lung Disease at JFK University Medical Center. While you may see survival rates online, these are based on averages and cannot indicate your individual experience.

The prognosis of pulmonary fibrosis can greatly differ due to a variety of factors:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Stage of diagnosis—early diagnosis is key in potentially slowing down the progression
  • Lifestyle
  • Environment

Progression for some is slow, while others decline more rapidly.

How to Increase Quality of Life

While the prognosis for someone diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis may be unknown, Dr. Raju offers four tips for improving quality of life:

  1. Pulmonary rehab. “This is a program of supervised exercise that educates you on how to be active with fewer breathing problems,” says Dr. Raju. Pulmonary rehab can also help improve lung function and teach you how to conserve energy.
  2. Oxygen therapy. Generally, you will most likely need oxygen at some point. Whether it’s needed all the time or just during exercise will depend on the severity of your disease. Supplemental oxygen will allow you to stay active and continue your normal life.
  3. Medications. Medications are available to either slow the progression of pulmonary fibrosis or reduce symptoms.
  4. Healthy environment. Dr. Raju notes that it can be difficult for pulmonary fibrosis patients to live at higher altitudes or in areas with poor air quality. Additionally, if your pulmonary fibrosis is caused by exposure to a specific environment, such as working with harsh chemicals, you may need to consider making a change to slow the disease's progression.

Available Resources for Patients With Pulmonary Fibrosis

While treatment options are available for the physical symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, you may find that you and your family need additional support. “Support groups for patients and their families can be a great resource to help cope with pulmonary fibrosis and its progression,” says Dr. Raju.

Additionally, clinical trials may offer further treatment options and hope. The National Institutes of Health maintains a helpful list of open clinical trials.

A pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis is scary, but Dr. Raju stresses: “It’s important to remember that each case is different, and we are continually working for new treatments to improve quality of life and the illness’ duration.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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