Have you ever thought about how the process of breathing works so smoothly? Every time we inhale and exhale, an exchange takes place in our lungs. Air, which carries oxygen, travels through narrow pathways, ending up in tiny balloon-like air sacs.1 These are called “alveoli.” From there, our blood picks up the oxygen and carries it throughout the body.1
However, this exchange doesn’t work as well for people who live with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF. IPF is a rare, chronic disease that causes scarring of the lungs, including the alveoli.2 This scarring makes it harder for blood to pick up oxygen. Less oxygen can make it more difficult to breathe, which in turn can cause the scarring to spread and worsen.3
IPF can be difficult to diagnose, so physicians look for certain signs. For example, they might hear a distinctive velcro-like crackle, called “rales,” in a person who has IPF.2 We still don’t fully know what causes IPF, but researchers are working tirelessly to better understand the disease and how it could be prevented or treated in the future.
Watch the video below to learn more about IPF.