Treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)


Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF, is a serious condition that scars the lungs, and makes breathing difficult. It is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. Once lungs are scarred by IPF, this can’t be reversed. That’s why it’s important to understand IPF treatment options, and talk to a lung specialist about managing the condition as soon as possible.

To help you discuss your condition, you can view the discussion guide here.


Lung Transplant
A lung transplant is the only cure for IPF at the moment, but only a small number of patients are eligible for treatment. It is a complex procedure with risks involved, and patients have to be fit enough for a major operation and anaesthetic. Importantly, you will need to be matched with a suitable donor, which can take a long time. Your doctor will be able to help explain how the donor process works.

Antifibrotic medicines
There are medicines which have been developed over the past few years to treat IPF. While they can’t cure the disease, they are proven to slow down the progress of IPF. With all medicines there can be side effects, but your doctor can help manage these.


Pulmonary rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a programme of exercise, discussion and advice on lung health. It is designed to help people with IPF maximise the use of their lungs and manage the symptoms of the disease. A course of pulmonary rehabilitation generally lasts 6–8 weeks, with one or two sessions a week, usually undertaken as a group. The aim is to help improve muscle strength, so oxygen is used more efficiently throughout the body as well as to improve patients’ general fitness and activity levels.

Cough suppressant medicines
It’s common for people with IPF to experience a dry cough, without any phlegm or mucus, which can be tiring or difficult to manage. If you have a cough, there are a number of medicines your doctor can offer you, called cough suppressants, which can help reduce how often you cough.

Antacid medicines
Antacid medicines are available for people with IPF experiencing heartburn and acid indigestion. Depending on how often this happens there are several options doctors can offer for these symptoms. These therapies can also be used in patients without symptoms, to prevent any damage to the lungs from acid reflux.

Oxygen therapy
Oxygen therapy can help with the feeling of breathlessness as you get more oxygen to your body. However, this is often from a tank and so can limit how easy it is to move around. As IPF progresses, long term oxygen therapy will become necessary in almost all cases.