What is Lung Scarring?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
The human respiratory system.
The human respiratory system.

Most people are familiar with scars that form on the skin and may be surprised to learn that scars form on lung tissue as well. Lung scarring is a condition in which lung tissue becomes damaged and scar tissue forms. Sometimes lung scars are small and do not represent a serious problem. In fact, a person may have small or isolated lung scars without even knowing it. On the other hand, large scars or scarring that is spread over a large area of lung tissue can cause breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, and coughing, which may make it hard for a person to do physical activity, such as exercise.

Lung scarring may cause breathing difficulties.
Lung scarring may cause breathing difficulties.

There are many conditions that may lead to lung scarring. Among the most common are pneumonia and cystic fibrosis, which is an inherited lung disease. A person may also develop scarring in relation to conditions such as tuberculosis and asbestosis, a disease caused by asbestos inhalation. In some cases, a person may develop lung scars because of damage that develops in relation to chronic asthma or cancer.

A doctor may order a chest x-ray to diagnose lung scarring.
A doctor may order a chest x-ray to diagnose lung scarring.

While coughing, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties are among the most common symptoms of lung scarring, there are other symptoms a person may develop. For example, an individual with lungs scars may develop fever and chills, especially if he has an active infection, or he may have night sweats. Unexplained weight loss and decreased energy can be symptoms of scarring as well, especially when they are accompanied by other symptoms of lung damage.

Cystic fibrosis can lead to lung scarring.
Cystic fibrosis can lead to lung scarring.

Lung scarring can be difficult to treat, as scars are usually permanent. When scarring is extensive or progressive, doctors may prescribe medications that help to slow tissue damage, improve lung function, and help the patient to stay comfortable. For example, anti-inflammatory medication may be used to help reduce inflammation, or immune suppressing drugs may be used to slow scarring that is related to immune system function.

Lung scarring can be difficult to treat, and scars are usually permanent.
Lung scarring can be difficult to treat, and scars are usually permanent.

In some cases, doctors may recommend therapies, instead of or in addition to medication, that may help to slow the progression of lung scarring or help the patient experience a better quality of life. They may include oxygen therapy, which involves giving the patient oxygen treatment, or pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves the use of breathing exercises, nutritional counseling, physical conditioning, and sometimes even stress management techniques. Sometimes lifestyle changes help as well, such as quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, and exercising moderately. In very severe cases, however, medication and therapies may not work, and a patient may need a lung transplant.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon1004486

I have lung scarring, according to thedoctor. I then go to another pulmonologist and she says I have COPD and asthma, when I have never had any episode of asthma much less an asthma attack. So I have no idea what I have from these numbskulls!

pleonasm

Cystic fibrosis is such a terrible disease, especially since it effects such young children and gives them scarring on the lungs.

I read a book about a girl who suffered from cystic fibrosis when I was a kid that affected me very much. I think especially because she died at the end.

I think today they might have extended her life with a lung transplant when the scarring was too much, but back then they didn't have that option.

I could never bring myself to read the book again, because I was so sad over it.

I hope one day they manage to find a cure for this terrible disease.

bythewell

I read a true story once about a man who the doctors thought must have somehow developed lung scarring. They couldn't figure out why he kept coughing so much, and producing so much phlegm even though he wasn't sick. And he showed other symptoms of lung scarring as well, like trouble breathing and so forth.

He hadn't had pneumonia or anything, so they thought maybe he had breathed in some asbestos or something like that.

He was terrified that it would turn out to be lung cancer or something.

In the end they did an exploratory surgery and it turned out to be a piece of food that he had sucked into his lungs!

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