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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Is there more we can be doing for my mother?

03/30/2006

Question:

My mother had a lung biopsy 2 years ago to confirm that she has Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. She now is on Oxygen full time (level 5) and continues to cough a lot. (especially at night). Her feet are really swelling and very cold. She is on water Pill and drinks a lot of water because of the cough. She has finally agreed to have A nurse come in so I am working on that. Is she in the final stages and what other Signs should I be watching for, how do you know how much longer she will have? She said she is not in pain but when she gets coughing real bad her lips turn blue And she looks so scared. Thanks for you help and ideas.

Answer:

Normally, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis gets steadily worse over time. The blue coloration in the lips is called cyanosis and is a sign of a low blood oxygen level. It is not possible to predict survival to an exact degree, but when patients require high oxygen concentrations and are less able to carry out regular daily activities, we often use home nursing or home hospice in order to assist in assessment and treatment of patients. In the end stages of pulmonary fibrosis, there are medications that can help relieve shortness of breath and cough (such as the class of drugs called the opiates) and her doctor can determine if any of these interventions are appropriate for her at this time.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University