What are the causes of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 10, 2013

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Doctors don't know what causes idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). They think that something inside or outside of the lungs attacks the lungs again and again over time.
These attacks injure the lungs and cause scarring in the tissue inside and between the air sacs. This makes it harder for oxygen to pass through the air sac walls into the bloodstream.

Doctors think the following things may increase your risk for IPF:

•   Cigarette smoking

•   Viral infections, including Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis), influenza A virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV-a virus, and herpes virus 6

•    Exposure to environmental pollutants, including inorganic dust (silica and hard metal dusts), organic dust (bacteria and animal proteins), and gases and fumes

•    The use of certain medicines, including:

  • Nitrofurantoin and sulfasalazine, which are antibiotics used mostly to treat urinary tract infections, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Medicines that keep your heartbeat regular, such as amiodarone or propranolol
  • Chemotherapy or cancer medicines, such as methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, and bleomycin

Genetics also may play a role in causing IPF. Some families have at least two members who have IPF.

Scientists have found that 9 out of 10 people who have IPF also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition in which acid from your stomach backs up into your throat.

As a result, some scientists think that some people who have GERD may breathe in tiny drops of acid from their stomachs on a regular basis. The acid may then injure the lungs and lead to IPF. More research must be done to confirm this theory.


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