In the world, the incidence of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) has around 10.7 cases per 100,000 people. It is also found to be higher in men aged 55 years and above as compared to women. According to studies, IPF shows a poor prognosis with a mean survival of 2-5 years from the onset of diagnosis. It is also estimated that 60% of most IPF patients die from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
This data only shows how grave the condition is and it does not choose a certain socio-economic status. Though age has a big factor in IPF and there are fewer cases of people getting the disease less than 55 years of age. IPF is a chronic lung disease that entails proper medical intervention and a drastic change of lifestyle. But what is the story behind Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and can it be managed with Apps?
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: behind the scenes
Pulmonary Fibrosis refers to the scarring of the lung tissues. There are different types of PF but the most common is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The scarring occurs for an unknown reason. Once a person has this, the scarring eventually gets worse and hard to take a deep breath. The lungs also do not have the capacity to take in enough oxygen once it is already scarred.
Anatomically speaking, the lungs are made up of a series of smaller airways. The oxygen that you breathe in from the environment goes through the lung’s trachea and bronchi. The bronchi then further subdivide and branch out into bronchioles. These bronchioles also branch out and subdivide into tiny air vesicles called alveoli. Since IPF is an interstitial lung disease, it does not affect the blood vessels directly, but can eventually lead to respiratory failure in the long run.
Still an unknown cause
It is still unclear as to what the cause of IPF really is. Nobody really knows even if ample studies have been conducted. However, there are several risk factors identified that increase the chance of acquiring IPF. These are the following:
- Genetics or family history of disease: if two or more members of the family have IPF, it is eventually called familial pulmonary fibrosis.
- Cigarette smoking: an estimate of 75% of diagnosed IPF patients were previous or current smokers
- Acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Age: almost all diagnosed with IPF are over 50 years of age
- Viral infections: Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, herpes
- Exposure to hazardous materials
As the condition progresses, the scar tissue can eventually destroy your lungs, making it hard for oxygen to get into your blood. IPF differs a lot from PF because there is no known cause for IPF (note: there are known causes for PF according). Although there is no exact cure for this disease as it is also terminal, managing the symptoms well is crucial. Slowing down the progression of the disease is possible by taking medication religiously.
Since it may be a struggle to adhere to the medication schedule for whatever reason, smartphone apps are very helpful in the management of IPF. CareClinic, specifically has a lot of features that support the treatment options of IPF. It has a reliable medication and health tracker which assist patients on their IPF journey.
Living with IPF is tough and it is important that you take your medication properly in order to help with symptom relief and slowing the progression of the disease. CareClinic was basically designed to help chronically-ill patients get through their lives day by day. If taking pills or any type of medication every day seem like a mundane task, wait until you try CareClinic to make things easier. The only thing you need to do is to upload your medication (via scanning the bar code) and other relevant information. After that, the app will do the rest.
With this health app, tracking your symptoms, health measurements and physical activity will definitely be a breeze. All the data that you input into the app can easily be printed as a monthly report that you can share openly with your specialist.
With CareClinic, managing IPF will only get better. As for security issues, the app has a passcode or fingerprint scanner which locks your device. The team constantly develops the app making it up to date all the time. CareClinic is very user-friendly and simple to use for all ages. You can also invite your family and friends to download the app so that you will have a great support system. This way, your group will have a better understanding about how you handle IPF.
What to watch out for in IPF
In idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the lungs become inflamed and a scar tissue called fibrosis is formed. The scar tissue makes the lungs hard, thick and less elastic. That’s why oxygen has a hard time passing from the alveoli (in the lungs) to the bloodstream. Various complications such as high blood pressure, high levels of red blood cells or collapsed lungs.
The most common symptom is shortness of breath, even during activities that would not usually give you a reason to be tired (for example getting dressed). The symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis usually develop slowly and worsen over time. However,there is also a possibility for a sudden worsening of the condition. In some cases, the symptoms remain stable and then suddenly flare up in an episode called acute exacerbation. These are the things to watch out for if a person has IPF:
- Shortness or breath and/or cough lasting for at least six months
- Mild fevers
- Weigh loss
- Joint pain or discomfort
- Muscle or body pain
- Clubbing or enlargement of fingers
- Ankle swelling or inflammation
- Heart murmurs
Often people relate the feelings of breathlessness and tiredness to old age. However, it is important not to take these symptoms for granted and seeing a specialist such as a pulmonologist is highly recommended. Whenever your doctor suspects that you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, he or she will be conducting an overall physical examination.
Your medical history will play a major role and several tests will be done such as blood examinations, lung function test, chest X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans. In worse cases, a lung biopsy may be needed. All of the test results will then be collected by your specialist and rule out other types of interstitial lung diseases.
How to manage IPF effectively
Since there is no known cure for IPF, there are advancements in research that have given people the luxury to live longer and have a better quality of life. Nobody can predict the disease progression so you of all people, must learn how to take care of yourself before visiting a clinic.
Before succumbing to taking synthetic medications, making lifestyle changes is a must. This usually involves smoking cessation, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet every day. Getting the flu vaccine also helps in alleviating the symptoms, as well as staying away from people who are diagnosed with chest infections.
In most cases, specialists prescribe two types of medication to slow down the prognosis of this disease. pirfenidone (Esbriet) is taken to decrease the activity of the body’s immune system. This, in turn, slows down the scarring of the lung tissues. Nintedanib (Ofev) is a new drug that minimizes lung tissue scarring. But due to the side effects, not all patients can withstand in taking these medications.
To further reduce the symptoms of IPF, other treatment options are given by specialists such as:
- Anti-acid therapy: treatment of gastroesophageal reflux
- Opioids: treatment of shortness of breath
- Oxygen therapy: to make breathing easier
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: exercise training, support, and education for people diagnosed with chronic lung disease
- Lung transplant: severe cases of IPF
Breathe better with CareClinic
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is one of those lung conditions in which you can manage with CareClinic on your mobile phone or iPad. Treatment options may include self-care, medication, and therapy. All of these may sound easy and manageable, but when everything gets busy, remembering when to take a pill every day, is indeed challenging.
Remembering when to visit your doctor amidst your hectic schedule is also hard that’s why all sorts of support are needed to get through. CareClinic has a feature in which you can send reminders on the date of your next doctor’s appointment.
CareClinic also sends medication reminders so that you will never forget a single dose every day. It may come in the form of an alarm or pop up a message that doesn’t go away until you personally click on them. A built-in health diary keeps track of your symptoms as well as vital measurements and diagnostic results so that it can be printed at the end of the month.
This valuable print out is the health information that you share with your doctor. Using CareClinic closely with your doctors is crucial in the improvement of your lung condition. Thus, with this IPF app, the quality of your life will become better in the days ahead. At the palm of your hand, you will be able to breathe better and have a positive outlook in life as a whole.
To get started tracking your treatment and symptoms for IPF, click here to sign up.