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IPF Awareness Week: What are the Causes?

5th – 11th October marks IPF Week 2015, raising awareness of the interstitial lung disease across the UK and Europe. If you haven’t heard of IPF, or would like more information on it, here we’ve put together a breakdown of some of the terminology, the symptoms, causes and what to do if you think you have developed IPF as a result of working conditions.

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

IPF Week 2015 raises awareness for Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Every year around 5,000 people are diagnosed with IPF in the UK. It is more likely to affect men and older people, with males accounting for six out of every 10 new cases.

What is IPF?

IPF is a type of interstitial lung disease. This means that it affects the tissue (the ‘interstitium’) supporting the air sacs of the lungs. The term ‘idiopathic’ means that the cause of the condition is not known. In people suffering IPF, a build-up (fibrosis) of scar tissue or inflammation in the lungs, causing them to be thick and hard making it difficult to take oxygen, meaning it is harder to breathe.


For people diagnosed with IPF, everyday activities become difficult. Simply moving about and walking can leave a sufferer feeling breathless and coughing. The British Lung Foundation advises that IPF occurs from middle age and when people get older so symptoms of breathlessness are often ignored as a matter of getting old, stating, “But if you feel breathless, you should never ignore it and you should see your doctor.”

Other less obvious symptoms concern you fingers and toes, with your nails feeling soft or as if they may come loose or your nails changing shape.

Causes of IPF

As mentioned before, the “I” in IPF stands for ‘idiopathic’ which means the cause isn’t known. What is known is that IPF is more common in past and present smokers. Occupation also has an effect. IPF is also more common in people exposed to dust from wood, metal, textile, stone, and cattle and farming. Many people regularly exposed to dust in the workplace suffer lung infections and diseases as a result of inhaling harmful dust without realising.

The Chest and Asbestos Disease team at Slater and Gordon have extensive experience in cases involving respiratory illnesses due to occupation and working conditions.

Sadly, the cause of IPF cannot be proven; however, following diagnosis it is sometimes revealed that the lung disease is due to exposure to asbestos dust, which we can investigate in pursuit of a compensation claim.

For more information on IPF Week 2015 and the next steps to tests, diagnosis and treatment of IPF, visit the British Lung Foundation website.

If you or a family member has suffered from a work-related lung disease call the expert Personal Injury Solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on 0800 844 0275 or contact us online.

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