Pulmonary fibrosis

Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis

The different types of pulmonary fibrosis have similar symptoms, which is one of the reasons why you need to take tests and speak to a specialist consultant to find out exactly which type you have.

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.

Several forms of pulmonary fibrosis usually occur after the age of 60, so you might think you’re getting breathless because you are not as young as you were. This breathlessness will get worse over time, if not treated.

Your shortness of breath may also be 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. Some people with pulmonary fibrosis can also have a fever, lose weight or experience muscle and joint pain.

You might not think that a lung condition could affect your fingers and toes, but this is often a distinctive sign of pulmonary fibrosis. It’s called clubbing, and you might notice:

  • your nails feel too soft or as if they are coming loose
  • the shape of your nails changes
  • the tips of your fingers or toes bulge out

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

Next: Diagnosing pulmonary fibrosis >

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Last medically reviewed: August 2016. Due for review: August 2019

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.