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Pulmonary fibrosis

What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?

The different types of pulmonary fibrosis have similar symptoms. You’ll have tests and speak to a specialist consultant to find out exactly which type you have.

The main symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are:

  • breathlessness
  • a cough that doesn’t go away
  • feeling tired all the time
  • clubbing

The first symptom a lot of people notice is getting out of breath when they’re exerting themselves, such as climbing a hill or stairs. But you might feel constantly short of breath, and not just when you’re moving about. Many forms of pulmonary fibrosis tend to occur after the age of 60, so some people wrongly think they’re getting breathless because they’re getting older. Don’t assume this is the case - it may well get worse untreated.

Shortness of breath can be also be caused or affected by other long-term conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and being overweight.


A cough that doesn’t go away and feeling very tired all the time are two other symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis.

Another sign is clubbing. You or your doctor may notice your nails changing shape to become like a drumstick: the tips of the fingers get bigger and the nails curve around the finger tips, and the base of the nail feels spongy.

Clubbing can also occur with other lung conditions, and as a result of heart or liver disease.

Some people with conditions associated with pulmonary fibrosis can lose weight or have a fever or aching or stiff joints and muscles. Others might have rashes, dry mouth and eyes, or poor circulation in fingers and toes (Raynaud’s).


Next: how is pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed? >

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Last medically reviewed: August 2019. Due for review: August 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.