Symptoms

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Early in the disease, symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) can be subtle or mild which can make it difficult to detect. Early symptoms of PF may include cough, breathlessness and fatigue.
People diagnosed with PF are generally older. It can be easy to put the symptoms down to ageing or being unfit. Older people may have other medical conditions, such as joint or heart problems, which can also mask the symptoms. Similar symptoms can also occur in other conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma and heart disease. It may take some time before these other conditions are ruled out and a firm diagnosis of PF is made. Common symptoms of PF include:

Breathlessness

Breathlessness can occur when resting but is more common when you move around. In some people, it may progress to the point of becoming breathless whilst performing daily activities, such as showering, getting dressed or speaking on the phone.

Cough

People with PF often report a bothersome dry cough as an early symptom. It may first be noticed as a cough that doesn’t get better after a chest infection.

Fatigue

It can be difficult to tell the difference between fatigue (tiredness) and breathlessness on exertion. People living with PF often describe days where they have a total lack of energy and feel completely exhausted. 

Weight loss

In the early stages, you may find the fatigue is associated with a mild loss of appetite and losing weight without trying. 

Oxygen levels

Reduced oxygen level as measured on a finger probe.

Blue lips or tonged

Occasionally blue lips or tongue.

Clubbing of fingernails and toenails

Clubbing of fingernails and toenails - Beak-shaped finger and toenails, commonly known as ‘clubbing’ can be associated with PF in some cases.

Other conditions

Some people with PF may already have features of other associated conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma. In these conditions, changes in the joints, muscles and skin may also be present.

For a few years prior to this (diagnosis), I noticed I was becoming very short of breath when walking up the stairs or hills. I kept saying to my doctor that it felt like I was getting asthma again.

Lyn, lives with PF, QLD