Condition with unusual symptom making breathing hard - and it's not because you're old or unfit

This is a photo of woman's finger with a bent hooked fingernail
-Credit: (Image: Getty)


Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, commonly abbreviated as IPF, is a fatal condition that leads to scarring of the lungs, making breathing progressively more challenging.

Pulmonary Fibrosis is a devastating disease impacting approximately 70,000 individuals annually in the UK, as reported by Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis. Regrettably, there is no cure, and although treatments can provide some relief, they merely slow the disease's progression.

The term 'idiopathic' denotes an unknown cause for the condition. According to the NHS, it predominantly affects individuals between the ages of 70 and 75 and is rare in those under 50.

What are the symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis?

Girl having respiration problems touching chest sitting on a couch in the living room at home.  Woman feeling pain ache touching chest having heart attack, sad worried lady suffers from heartache at home.
Do you feel tired of our of breath? -Credit:Getty

Feeling tired might seem like a sign that you just need a good night's sleep, but it could indicate something more serious. Symptoms of IPF typically worsen gradually over time so it's crucial to consult a GP if you're still feeling fatigued despite getting more sleep.

Symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath

  • a persistent dry cough

  • tiredness

  • loss of appetite and weight loss

  • rounded and swollen fingertips (clubbed fingers)

In addition to feeling fatigued, many individuals initially dismiss their breathlessness, attributing it to ageing or lack of fitness. However, over time, even mild activities like dressing may lead to shortness of breath.

Should I see a GP?

The NHS says that you should see your GP if you've has breathing issues for a while or have had a cough for more than three weeks. They caution: "These symptoms are not normal and should not be ignored."

If a GP suspects a lung condition like IPF, they may refer you to a hospital specialist for tests. This may include:

You can read up on Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis through the NHS website here.