In addition to being a broad term, lung diseases are very intimidating and confusing. We don’t always completely understand what pulmonary disorders are but we know we don’t want to be diagnosed with them. You may be surprised to learn about how common pulmonary fibrosis and COPD risk factors are. Read on to learn if you are at risk for these lung diseases.
Sometimes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis are used interchangeably but these are two different lung diseases. Briefly, a pulmonary disorder is labeled “obstructive” when a person can’t exhale completely due to narrow or blocked airways in the lungs. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is actually an umbrella term that includes asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema (usually caused by inflammation in the airways).
When a person’s lungs lose the ability to expand during inhalation (which occurs when tissue in the lungs is lost or cells stiffen from environmental factors) the disorder is referred to as “restrictive.” Restrictive lung diseases cover pulmonary fibrosis (PF), pneumonia, and lung cancer. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis refers to there being no known cause. Additional information on the difference between COPD and pulmonary fibrosis can be found here.
Health risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:
Exposure to tobacco smoke. The biggest COPD risk exists for long term smokers. Also at risk are people exposed to large amounts of second hand smoke, pipe smokers, and cigar smokers.
Exposure to dust and chemicals. Of particular concern are people whose occupations expose them to chemical fumes/vapors and/or dusts long term.
Age. Most people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at least 40 years old because this lung disease develops over time.
GERD. Otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a severe form of acid reflux that can cause COPD in some people but makes the lung disease worse for many sufferers.
Genetics. In rare cases, COPD is caused by alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, a rare genetic disorder.
Pulmonary Fibrosis Risk Factors:
Gender. Statistically men are more likely to suffer from pulmonary fibrosis (PF).
Age. Like COPD, PF is more likely to affect older and middle-aged adults.
Exposure to environmental toxins. People working in mining, farming, or construction have a higher risk of pulmonary fibrosis due to their consistent exposure to lung damaging pollutants.
Radiation and chemotherapy. You’re more susceptible to pulmonary fibrosis after getting radiation to your chest and/or use of specific chemotherapy drugs.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Risk Factors: Despite not knowing the cause in these cases, researchers have found some factors which seem to indicate increased risk of IPF.
Smoking. Self explanatory but see COPD risk factor information for more details.
Genetics. There is a rare type of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which seems to run in families.
Viruses. Researchers have noticed after a viral illness (such as Epstein-Barr) many people develop symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis.
You can’t control your age or genetics, but you can control your exposure to tobacco smoke (primary and secondary) and long term exposure to occupational toxins. Key to preventing lung disease is to quit smoking (even better, don’t start). If you (or a loved one) already suffer from pulmonary fibrosis (PF or IPF) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ActiveForever.com has a variety of oxygen therapy, mobility aids, and independent living aids to help those diagnosed live full, engaging lives.