What Is IPF?

What Is IPF?

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is also known as IPF.  IPF is a condition that causes progressive scarring of the lungs. IPF causes the lungs to become stiff, making it hard to breathe. The lungs are then unable to provide the body with enough oxygen.

  • Idiopathic: Of unknown cause. IPF is thought not to be related to any other disease or condition, such as cancer or asthma
  • Pulmonary: Occurring in the lungs. IPF affects the small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where oxygen enters the blood
  • Fibrosis: The development of scar (fibrotic) tissue. This scarring starts in the tissue between the alveoli and gradually worsens


  • Over time, scarring develops in the lungs and tissue becomes thick and stiff. This makes it difficult for the lungs to expand and transfer oxygen to the bloodstream
  • Normal lungs recover from inflammation (or swelling) caused by an illness or irritation, but in IPF scar tissue accumulates
  • Early in IPF, a person might develop a dry cough and may also notice that normal physical activities like climbing stairs cause shortness of breath
  • What causes this change is unknown

Risk Factors

  • Although the causes of IPF are unknown, a number of potential risk factors have been described:
    • Family history of IPF
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Environmental exposures
    • Microbial agents
    • Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux)
  • When more is known about IPF, it may be possible to identify specific causes so that people can take steps to reduce their risk

Facts About IPF

  • IPF affects approximately 5,000 to 9,000 people in Canada
  • 3,000 ‐ 4,000 new cases of IPF arise each year in Canada
  • IPF is found mostly in people between the ages of 50 and 70 , but can also affect younger patients
  • IPF affects more men than women

Signs & Symptoms

  • The signs and symptoms of IPF are similar to other scarring lung diseases
  • Most people find that the signs and symptoms of IPF often come on slowly and include:
    • Shortness of breath with activity
    • Chronic, dry hacking cough
    • “Crackles” or “Velcro” sounds in the lungs heard by your doctor through a stethoscope
    • Rounding of the ends of fingers -­‐ a condition called “clubbing”, which may be present in about half of IPF patients


Isolation & Support

  • Facing a serious illness can be frightening and very stressful
  • You may feel isolated though you are not alone. Support is available for you
  • This group will help you learn about the different programs and services available to you and how you can get involved
  • This support and education group is also here as a platform to listen, share and help you emotionally, in whichever way you are most comfortable