Though the course of pulmonary fibrosis can vary a great deal from person to person, and there is no definite way to know how fast it will progress in a given case, there are several factors typically considered to influence a person's life expectancy with pulmonary fibrosis. People diagnosed at an earlier age, particularly women and non-smokers, often live longer than others. When the disease is recognized within a year of symptoms first setting in and there is minimal lung damage and shortness of breath at the time of diagnosis, patients have a much better chance of increased survival. Other factors that can lead to increased life expectancy are knowing the cause and responding well to treatment early on.
A variety of personal factors often seem to play a role in one's life expectancy with pulmonary fibrosis. Those who find out they have the disease when they are younger typically live longer. Women also tend to fare better with pulmonary fibrosis than men. Those who have a history of smoking, and therefore more damage to their lungs, are more likely to have a shorter survival time.
Time of diagnosis is also usually very important when estimating how long a patient will live with pulmonary fibrosis. The disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, but those who are diagnosed within the first year after they notice symptoms have a much better chance at a longer life. Their chances are even better if the scarring in their lungs is not too extensive at the time of diagnosis, and if their breathing is still good as well.
Those who have pulmonary fibrosis caused by a known issue often have a better life expectancy than those who do not. People whose lungs become scarred by infection or diseases like systemic sclerosis are typically able to be treated by addressing the underlying problem. Damage from environmental factors may be reduced if exposure is stopped. Alternatively, those with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, where the cause is unknown, tend to have a shorter survival time.
Another factor that often leads to increased life expectancy with pulmonary fibrosis is good response to treatment. This can include medications, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Patients who do well with these treatments within three to six months often have a better prognosis and live longer than those who do not.