Fibrosing alveolitis/Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)


Also known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), fibrosing alveolitis is a condition characterized by respiratory issues and scarring or thickening of the lungs over time. Specifically, the condition affects the alveoli and interstitium of the lungs which facilitate gas exchange by making oxygen usable and expelling carbon dioxide. It can occur independently or in association with another illness. While the cause of this condition is unknown, it is thought that the immune system and/or the lungs may be responding to an unknown injury or substance.

Common Symptoms

Dyspnea on exertion (the sensation of running out of air and not being able to breathe fast or deeply enough during physical activity), coughing, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, arthralgia (joint pain), and finger clubbing (abnormal, rounded shape of the nail bed).

Coexisting Diseases and Conditions

Rheumatoid arthritis, partial heart failure, and bronchogenic carcinoma.

Risk Factors and Prevalence

Studies have found that the risk of developing this condition increases dramatically with age. However, it can still develop at any age. Typically the symptoms will be present for about 3 years before the diagnosis of fibrosing alveolitis occurs. There have been findings that support the idea of equal incidence between the sexes and others that report males being at a slightly higher risk. Still, other studies have found that if there is also a connective tissue condition at play, females seem to be more likely to also express fibrosing alveolitis. Some studies have shown that those living in industrial areas tend to be more commonly affected by the condition. Individuals with fibrosing alveolitis have often been noted as having experienced a viral infection prior to the condition’s onset, which leads some experts to suspect viral illnesses as a potential trigger.


  1. Article Sources
    1. Bois, R. M. du, & Wells, A. U. (2001). Cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis/idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. European Respiratory Journal, 18(32 suppl), 43s–55s.

    2. Bourke, S. C., & Clague, H. (2000). Review of cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, including current treatment guidelines. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 76(900), 618–624.

    3. Collins, F. F., & Sieker, H. O. (1978). Fibrosing alveolitis. Disease-a-Month, 24(7), 1–35.

    4. Fibrosing Alveolitis—An overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2021, from

    5. Thomas, P. (1978). Fibrosing alveolitis. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 119(10), 1211–1216.