Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
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Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis

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How will my doctor find out if I have IPF?

Your doctor will diagnose IPF based on your symptoms, your medical and family history, your risk factors, and the results from tests and procedures. Idiopathic means that your doctors cannot determine a cause of your disease at the time of diagnosis. They will rule out other medical reasons or conditions that may be causing your symptoms before diagnosing you with IPF. This may be done by doing other tests and talking to specialists.

Medical history and physical exam

To help determine whether you have IPF and rule out other possible causes of lung problems, your doctor may ask about your medical history and possible risk factors.

Your doctor may look for signs of IPF during a physical exam, such as:

  • Blue hands and feet from not enough oxygen in the blood
  • Clubbing of the fingers or toes
  • High-pitched crackles when listening to your lungs

Diagnostic tests and procedures

To diagnose IPF, your doctor may order some of the following tests and procedures.

  • High resolution chest CT scan, or HRCT: This is used to take pictures of the inside of your lungs and look for scarring or inflammation. CT scans can also help distinguish between types of lung diseases. For IPF, doctors look for a pattern where the lungs look similar to a honeycomb.
  • Lung biopsy: This is used to see if your lung tissue shows signs of inflammation, scarring, or other changes. This procedure is sometimes used to verify the diagnosis of IPF. It usually is done by thoracoscopic surgery, in which small incisions are made and a small camera is used to direct surgical instruments.
  • Chest X-ray: This is used to take pictures of the lungs and look for evidence of inflammation or damage such as scarring. An X-ray does not provide as much detail as a high-resolution CT scan.

Tests for other medical conditions

Your doctor may perform some tests and procedures to help rule out other conditions that may cause lung disorders.

  • Blood tests, such as an antibodies test: This is used to look for signs of an autoimmune disease that can cause lung scarring.
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL): This is used to look at the types of cells in your lung fluid. Sometimes it may be used when the types of cells can help distinguish between IPF and other lung diseases.
  • Lung function tests: This is used to see if you show signs of reduced breathing capacity or abnormal blood oxygen levels. These tests help assess the severity of your lung disease, and they can help monitor whether your condition is stable or worsening over time.
  • genetics testing: This is used to see if you have mutation, or changes in your gene, that can raise your risk of IPF. You may need this test if you have a family history of interstitial lung disease or signs of early aging.
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