The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing, and experts learn new information about the illness daily. In recent weeks, some reports have indicated that COVID-19 patients have developed scarring in the lungs and have incorrectly asserted that they are contracting an interstitial lung disease with pulmonary fibrosis (PF).
“Some COVID-19 patients with severe lung injury have shown evidence of scarring on their lungs after recovering from the illness. But it’s very important to note that while this scarring is ‘fibrosis’ in the lungs, the underlying causes and clinical course appear to differ from those with interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or rheumatoid arthritis,” said Gregory P. Cosgrove, MD, chief medical officer for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.
What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is the most common cause of PF and a debilitating disease that leads to progressive scarring of the lungs. Symptoms, which are chronic, include persistent dry cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. More than 200,000 Americans are living with the disease. There is no known cure.
Scarring on the lungs vs. Pulmonary Fibrosis
Currently, there is no evidence that indicates the scarring in the lungs experienced by COVID-19 patients is progressive. Additional information is needed to better understand the long-term impact of COVID-19-associated lung injury and fibrosis. While scarring in the lungs in COVID-19 is very serious, it is different than other diseases that cause progressive pulmonary fibrosis and we should not associate the two different conditions in the absence of more definitive data.
“We hope that those who are discussing consequences of COVID-19 will avoid citing pulmonary fibrosis so that we can prevent misperceptions about PF among patients, families and healthcare providers,” said Cosgrove.
For more information about PF, and for COVID-19 resources, visit www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org.