Know the 7 Hidden Warning Signs of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), is a lung condition that results in scarring of the lungs. This scarring is known as fibrosis and it happens due to an unknown reason. Over a period of time, this scarring gets worse and it can make it difficult to breathe as the lungs are not able to take in a sufficient amount of oxygen. It is a rare and chronic lung disease, typically beginning with a hacking cough and breathlessness. As there is no identified cause for the disease, there are many symptoms, though it still makes diagnosis difficult.

Know the 7 Hidden Warning Signs of Idiopathic Pulmonary

There are several hidden warning signs of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and while these are less common symptoms, these signs will help you identify if you have Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) at an early stage. The earlier the diagnosis of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the easier it becomes to stop the progression of the disease.

Unintentional Weight Loss

One of the first signs of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)is that it becomes difficult to have food. You will notice that it starts taking more energy to catch a breath between each bite. Due to this reason, people who have IPF start noticing that they lose their appetite and as a result, lose weight unintentionally. This is why it is important that once diagnosed, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)patients have a diet that is rich in nutrients. It is also better that instead of having two or three heavy meals during the day, you eat several smaller meals throughout the day. This will also help you maintain a healthy weight level.


A survey of a group of people having IPF conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that fatigue is one of the most difficult symptoms of IPF to deal with. One participant of the survey even said that a hacking cough from Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), makes one feel fatigued and wiped out for the entire day. IPF makes one feel exhausted throughout the day. Even doing daily activities or tasks can be difficult to carry out as your breathing becomes impaired. Frequent coughing also makes you feel very tired, making it difficult to even get out of bed in the mornings.

Clubbed Toes and Fingers

Clubbed toes and fingers is also a warning sign of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). This happens because your body stops receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. You may notice that in the later stages of the disease, your nails may start becoming wider or rounder. Your fingertips may also start to look red and swollen, and the skin may feel warm to the touch.

Sleep Troubles

Many people are unable to sleep during the night as the coughing tends to get worse at this time. Coughing constantly makes it difficult to get restful sleep. Once you have been diagnosed, your medications, particularly prednisone, may cause disturbances to your sleep cycle. These medications may also cause other side effects such as mood changes or weight gain.

Joint and Muscle Pain

The constant coughing that follows Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is also known to give you aches and pains throughout your muscles and joints. You may also experience chest pain and tightness along with bad headaches. In some cases, people also report having localized pain in their tongue and lips.

Edema in the Extremities

IPF is known to commonly cause swelling in your extremities. As Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) progresses, the right side of your heart will have to work harder to pump the blood through your arteries to reach the lungs for oxygen. Due to this condition, your heart will lower the volume of blood that it pumps as well as the fact that blood can back up into areas of the body such as the lower legs, gastrointestinal tract, and the liver. If you notice swelling in your lower legs, then you should consult your doctor immediately as it could be a sign that your heart is working overtime, putting it under immense strain.

Other Conditions

If you have Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), you need to be aware that often, one or two more diseases can be present along with IPF. One of the most common conditions that often goes together with IPF is GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). When you have GERD, you will frequently experience regurgitation that is a backflow of your stomach’s contents into your esophagus. This may cause a burning sensation in the throat and chest area. Sleep apnea, lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and ischemic heart disease are certain other conditions that go hand-in-hand with IPF and you need to be aware of these conditions to be able to detect any change early on.

Why Early Detection/Treatment is Necessary?

Early diagnosis is crucial in the case of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) because the sooner you get diagnosed, the better chances you have of slowing down the progression of the disease and the treatment can help you manage your symptoms better. If you notice any shortness of breath or a persistent hacking cough, then you should make an appointment with your doctor sooner than later.

Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist for a more detailed checkup.


It is important to keep track of your symptoms if they continue to persist. Sometimes, being vigilant can help you catch many conditions in the early stages, where treatment will have maximum benefit. If you are having a persisting cough, a fever, aches, and pains, or if you are feeling unnaturally tired, then you should not hesitate to consult a doctor. It may turn out to be nothing, or these may just be the hidden signs of conditions such as Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 19, 2018

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