Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, is a chronic, progressive—and generally fatal—lung disease, characterized by scarring that thickens the lining of the lungs. This causes irreversible loss of the tissue’s ability to transport oxygen to the rest of the body, ultimately robbing a patient of the ability to breathe. At present, there is no known cause, no FDA-approved treatments, and no cure for IPF.
About 128,000 people in the Unites States, with about 48,000 new cases diagnosed per year. IPF usually affects patients 50 to 70 years of age, and occurs more often in men than women—with a male to female ration of 2:1. Men tend to be diagnosed at a later stage in the disease.
There are some activities, medical conditions, and medications that have been linked to an increased risk of developing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or IPF. These include: smoking, certain viral infections (like Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, HIV, and more), certain medicines, radiation, environmental toxins, genetics, and GERD.
The GERD connection is large—affecting 90% of those with IPF. Researchers have found that 9 out of 10 people who have IPF also have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD – a condition in which acid from your stomach backs up into your esophagus and throat. It is thought that some of those who have GERD may regularly breathe in tiny droplets of acid from their stomachs, which can, in turn, injure their lungs and lead to IPF. More research is being done to explore the date behind this theory.
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