How Pulmonary Fibrosis Develops in People With COVID-19 vs. People With Interstitial Lung Disease

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness thought to spread primarily through droplets produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, or by touching a surface that has the virus on it before touching your mouth or nose. The symptoms of this illness range from mild to severe and can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). In the subset of individuals with COVID-19 who develop ARDS, there is a chance for the development of pulmonary fibrosis, or scarred or damaged lung tissue. 

In this brief article, a lung specialist in Tampa goes over the differences between the patterns of pulmonary fibrosis that develops in those with interstitial lung disease and that which is seen in individuals affected by COVID-19.

Related: What People with Pre-Existing Lung Conditions Should Know About the Coronavirus

Pulmonary Fibrosis Overview

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung condition characterized by damaged, scarred, or thickened lung tissue that makes it difficult for the lungs to function. The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis vary depending on the individual but may include the following:

  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle ache
  • Widening or rounding of the tips of the toes or fingers

Pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by a number of factors, from long-term exposure to pollutants to chemotherapy drugs. In the case of COVID-19, the affected individual develops pulmonary fibrosis after previously contracting pneumonia. Although the severity of pulmonary fibrosis will differ depending upon whether or not you have interstitial lung disease or COVID-19, pulmonary fibrosis will primarily result in a hindrance in oxygen’s ability to pass into your bloodstream, causing shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest discomfort. 

Related: Difficulty Breathing? Could It Be Interstitial Lung Disease?

Pulmonary Fibrosis and Interstitial Lung Disease

According to a press release issued by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF), interstitial lung disease is characterized by progressive scarring which increases over time and gradually deteriorates the lung function of the affected individual. This is due to the fact that interstitial lung disease is chronic and progressive in nature, with irreversible and continuous lung damage. 

This does not, however, mean that there are no treatment options available to delay the progression of the disease or alleviate the severity of symptoms. Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D., a lung specialist in Tampa, recommends scheduling an appointment to go over the available methods of treatment, from pulmonary rehabilitation to a lung transplant, and how you can decide which option is right for you. 

Pulmonary Fibrosis and COVID-19 

A small number of individuals affected by COVID-19 will develop ARDS, or a condition that results in fluid buildup in the lungs, prevention of the flow of oxygen to the bloodstream, and post-ARDS fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis which occurs after surviving ARDS is different from that of the pulmonary fibrosis associated with interstitial lung disease, as post-ARDS fibrosis is not progressive. Recovery time takes a period of about one year with a decrease in general lung function; however, the symptoms do not gradually worsen over time as they do with interstitial lung disease. 

If you are suffering from pulmonary fibrosis as a result of interstitial lung disease or are concerned about how your preexisting lung condition impacts your risk for contracting COVID-19, contact a lung doctor in Tampa today.

To schedule a consultation with Ravikanth Vydyula, M.D., a lung doctor in Tampa, please request an appointment today.

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