05:38 PM

What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary Fibrosis is a disease that affects over 200,000 people per year. This condition is not just one disease, it is actually a family of over 200 different lung diseases that can look very similar. Kevin Keeton, MD, Pulmonologist at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, says that he and the team at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung conduct research to discover more about this complex condition in hopes of better understanding how and why it manifests.

“Pulmonary Fibrosis is a scarring of the lungs, and it’s typically caused when the scarring cells of the lungs cause it to shrink up”, says Dr. Keeton. Over time, that part of the lung that carries scar tissue can significantly damage the normal lung and make it very hard to get oxygen into your blood. This can feel people feeling short of breath, especially during exercise.

There are various ways people can get Pulmonary Fibrosis, but sometimes it can be unknown. This is called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. “There are some people that get this disease and we have no idea why,” Dr. Keeton states. “This kind typically sneaks up on people the most because they don’t know they have anything wrong with them.”

The most common symptoms for someone with Pulmonary Fibrosis are shortness of breath, chronic cough that is not associated with a cold or sickness, and fast, shallow breathing. Many people try to justify their shortness of breath with old age or being out of shape, but Dr. Keeton says ignoring this symptom can be dangerous. “The simplest way to check if you have this disease is to get a chest x-ray referred by your pulmonologist. If the disease is significant enough, the x-ray will show you,” says Dr. Keeton. 

Dr. Keeton works alongside five other pulmonologists who specialize in respiratory health. The team at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung offer vast experience in detecting and treating people with this disease. Every case is assessed with an individualized approach, understanding the uniqueness of every person's health story. 

To learn more about the cardio and pulmonary resources and services offered at KRMC, visit KRH.org/rmhl.