Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) Week
It's Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis week - or IPF for short. And the British Lung Foundation is doing all that it can to raise awareness of this currently incurable condition.
But what is IPF?
IPF is an umbrella term for multiple conditions that affect the lungs. Conditions that cause a build-up of scar tissue which becomes thick and hard, making it difficult for our lungs to extract the oxygen it needs from the air we breathe.
And it kills over 5,000 people in the UK every year.
The exact cause of IPF is difficult to diagnose. In some cases, the cause can be identified. But in most cases, it can't. However, experts do know that the build-up of scar tissue is usually a result of some sort of damage to the lungs.
This damage can include:
And sadly, once tissue becomes scarred, healthy tissue can never return – making it an incurable condition. But there are ways to slow down the rate of scarring, which is why it's important to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms occur.
What are the symptoms of IPF?
The main symptom of IPF is being constantly out of breath.
If you've been exerting yourself, shortness of breath is to be expected. But if you've just walked from the car to your front door and you're breathing heavily, it could be a sign of an underlying issue.
Other symptoms include coughing and a feeling of continual tiredness. Again, these could be the sign of something more serious. So visit your GP to get checked out.
IPF can affect anyone. But if you are exposed to harmful pollutants regularly – such as dust and fumes – you could be more at risk.
What can site personnel do to reduce their risk?
Ensuring that the right protection is always being used on site is the main way to reduce risk.
In environments where dust is prevalent, it is essential to use correct dust control systems, barriers and enclosures to efficiently manage and contain the dust, removing the risk of over-exposure for personnel.
Where fumes and gases are involved, filters or specialist high temperature extraction systems should be in place to reduce potential damage from harmful fumes.
The British Lung Foundation are working hard to ensure those at risk are informed and given the support they need to recognise IPF early.
One of their recent tools is an online breath test.
So go on, test your breathing today. What have you got to lose?
And if you want to get involved to help make a difference, visit the British Lung Foundation's website to find out how you can help.