Causes of pulmonary fibrosis
In a small number of pulmonary fibrosis cases, it’s possible to identify a specific cause.
Some causes are:
- being exposed to certain types of dust - including wood or metal dusts or asbestos
- being exposed to allergens - such as bird feathers or mould
- a side effect of a drug
Some types of pulmonary fibrosis occur when you have another condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.
In a very few cases, two or more members of a family may develop pulmonary fibrosis. But current research suggests the genetics of familial interstitial lung disease is complex and there is no clear inherited predisposition to develop pulmonary fibrosis.
In most types of pulmonary fibrosis a specific cause cannot be found. One of the most frequently occurring forms of fibrosis is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The word ‘idiopathic’ means there is no known cause.
Researchers recently set out some common types of interstitial lung disease, grouped by what causes them, in the diagram below. It is not agreed by all doctors and there’s lots of research underway to improve our understanding of the causes.
Classification of common interstitial lung diseases
|Interstitial lung disease||Idiopathic disorders||
|Connective tissue and autoimmune disease||
|Occupational and environmental||
|Genetic / inherited||
Adam Wallis and Katherine Spinks: The diagnosis and management of ILDs
British Medical Journal 2015