Treatment for lung fibrosis is primarily aimed at treating individual symptoms and delaying the progression of the disease, as there is no effective long-term treatment or cure available. Most people with this condition will eventually require a lung transplant in order to survive. Earlier treatment options may include the use of prescription medications, lifestyle changes, and oxygen therapy. Any questions or concerns about individualized methods of treating lung fibrosis should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
In the beginning stages of the disease, lifestyle changes are often recommended as a treatment for lung fibrosis. Patients who smoke are usually asked to quit in order to preserve the remaining lung function as long as possible. Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet is especially important for those with lung disease, as a decrease in appetite is common. Some doctors may recommend pneumonia vaccines in an effort to avoid further complications.
Steroid medications may be used along with other prescription drugs as part of the treatment for lung fibrosis. These medications do not cure the disease, although they may help to manage symptoms for a limited amount of time. There may be significant side effects associated with the use of these drugs, so it is important to discuss the benefits and risks with a doctor before deciding on this type of treatment.
Oxygen therapy may make it easier to breathe and can improve the quality of life for many people with lung fibrosis. A respiratory therapist may be assigned to teach the patient breathing exercises that can help to strengthen the lungs. Physical therapy may also be useful so that a safe exercise program can be developed based on the overall health of the patient. Many hospitals also provide resources such as counseling to help the affected person as well as the family learn to cope with a potentially terminal disease.
The final treatment for lung fibrosis is often a lung transplant. In most cases, the donated lung is harvested from a deceased organ donor, although living donors are sometimes accepted. To qualify for a living donor, there must be at least two matching donors available, each of whom donates one section of a healthy lung. These sections are then surgically connected to form a new lung for the recipient without significantly impacting the health of the donor. Following the lung transplant, anti-rejection medications will be needed daily for the remainder of life to keep the body from attacking the new organ.