When you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) it means that scar tissue is building up in your lungs. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this scarring. As IPF progresses, this damaged lung tissue thickens making breathing increasingly more difficult. Along with shortness of breath, you may feel other symptoms like fatigue or muscle and joint pain.

Continue reading to find out how to maintain a good quality of life with IPF.

Treating Your IPF

There are some medical treatments available for IPF, but they don’t really combat the disease. Treatment is mostly geared toward managing symptoms and making day-to-day life a little easier. Your doctor will likely recommend one or more medical interventions, along with lifestyle changes that can help you maintain your quality of life.

Maintaining Quality of Life

There are lots of steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable and to make living with IPF less of a chore.

Stop Smoking

IPF is more common in current and former smokers. Stopping this habit is the first step toward breathing easier. If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor and get serious about quitting. As you continue to live with IPF, it’s going to become more and more difficult to breathe. You certainly don’t want to make things harder on your lungs by wasting those breaths on poisonous smoke.

Maintain a Nutritious Diet

You probably know that being overweight puts stress on your entire body, including your lungs. But, with IPF, eating to maintain a healthy weight can be difficult. Eating itself can be uncomfortable, and it takes more energy to breathe while chewing and swallowing.

If you find yourself struggling to get enough food intake, make sure you choose your meals wisely. Don’t waste energy eating unhealthy food. Make choices that are full of nutrients and contain more calories per bite. A nutritionist or dietician can help you plan your diet.

Stay Fit

It’s natural to want to avoid exercise when even the simplest activities make it harder to breathe. But, becoming a couch potato will actually make you feel worse. Your muscles will become weaker and more easily fatigued, making everyday tasks more difficult to manage. If you stay active, your muscles will be stronger, and you’ll become more practiced at tasks. This increased efficiency will actually help you use less oxygen and decrease that feeling of breathlessness.

Find a Support Group

A strong support network can make a huge difference in your outlook and sense of well-being. Simply being with others who understand your struggles and have similar stories can help you feel less alone. It may even lead to some brainstorming of ways to overcome daily hurdles. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a list of both community and online groups for people with IPF.

Learn to Relax

Practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques can help you manage your everyday stress. This can be especially helpful if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Learning to relax can also help you calm your breathing and reduce the workload on your lungs.

Ask About Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is becoming increasingly popular in the IPF community. The multifaceted program takes advantage of many medical and therapeutic specialists to teach ways to live better, improve your overall health, and increase the strength and function of your lungs.


While it’s true that there’s no current cure for IPF, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve your situation. By taking control of your lifestyle, you can learn to feel better, live better, and enjoy a greater quality of life with IPF.


Read Video Transcript »

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is a progressive stiffening of the lungs. Now the lung is meant to expand and contract, like a balloon. And it takes in oxygen to help diffuse into the blood stream to get to our tissues. And it's made up of a tissue call fibrous cells and they give the lung its structure. However, with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, there's an over production of these fibrous cells and the lung becomes stiff and can't expand and take in as much oxygen as it normally does.


So the exact causes of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis are unknown. However we do have a fairly good idea of what some possible causes could be and they come from chronic trauma to the lungs that causes damage. Some fo these things could be smoking, which causes chronic irritation to the lungs. Another thing could be dust from a worksite. Or even the effects of heartburn which causes acid to come up from the esophagus and go back into the lungs.


The usual symptoms of IPF would be anything that affects the lungs as you can imagine. If you can't breathe very well, you'll be short of breath. Now in the beginning of the disease, you may be able to walk several blocks without any problem. But as it progresses, it's hard to walk one block without having to sit down because you're so short of breath. Another very common symptom is a chronic cough. It may or may not be productive.


The treatment for IPF used to not be very good. We tried anti-inflammatory medications and steroids, but they never really worked. Because, as we know now, the disease is not about inflammation but more about the proliferation of these fibrous cells. However, there are 2-new medications that actually target the fibrous cells and these two medications are Esbriet and Ofev. What they do is that they block the proliferation of these fibrous cells so it really slows the progression of the disease.


An exacerbation is something that causes a worsening of the symptoms. And an exacerbation would come from something like an infection. The infections in someone with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis can be very dangerous and so we treat them right away with antibiotics and steroids to stop the inflammation from the infection, not from the disease itself. Other things would be supplemental oxygen so you see people wearing oxygen tanks. This can help as well.

Living with IPF

Lifestyle changes that people should consider if they do have Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis would be: one, stopping smoking, two, treating their heartburn, and three, doing something called pulmonary rehab which are exercises designed to improve your lung function. Although in the past, we never had good treatment for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, now with these new medications we can really preserve the quality of life. So make sure to take those medications regularly, do your pulmonary rehab, and always consult regularly with your physician.