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Three lungs, each a different shade of orange

Cystic Fibrosis and COPD: Similar But Different

With the release of the documentary “Claire”, about the life of Claire Wineland, many became curious about different lung diseases. Keep reading this article, but then watch the movie. It’s a powerful film that tells the story of how a young cystic fibrosis CF activist lived her life. It details how she was listed for a lung transplant, and so much more. It’s about how she continued to look for the good in life right up until the end. Her life spoke to anyone with lung disease.

Lessons from Claire

Quotes from Claire like, “You are never going to be happy with what you get unless you are happy with what you have” motivated people to look up no matter how you feel. She was a go-getter, an activist who lived out loud, and a mentor for everyone, with and without lung disease. Let’s take a look at the three major chronic lung diseases: cystic fibrosis (CF), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and how they are similar.1

Symptoms and causes

Common symptoms include:1

Causes vary by condition. It is not really known what the cause of IPF is. You may have a higher risk if a member of your family has it. The cause and disease progression are not easy to predict. There is no cure, but there are treatments to help with the symptoms.

CF is caused by a genetic defect that controls the movement of water and salt in your body’s cells. Sadly, it affects many parts of the body. The lungs are just one area of concern, and that’s what we will talk about in relation to other lung ailments. It progresses differently for everyone and can range from mild to severe. More research has helped understand the disease and has helped create new therapies. This has helped increase life expectancy and improve the quality of life for those with CF.

COPD can be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. By avoiding pollutants and contaminated areas, a person can live for many years with COPD. Specialists offer a wide range of therapies, medication, and treatment options. It usually comes on slowly, and disease progression can be slowed or halted with treatment.

More commonalities between the conditions

All three of these conditions have an effect on the lungs. Every person who has a chronic or progressive lung disease will need to be under the care of a pulmonary specialist. Any occupation that includes exposure to fumes, dust, or chemicals should be avoided. Smoking, vaping, and second-hand smoke should also be avoided.

Treatment options include pulmonary rehabilitation for all three; use of bronchodilators and oral steroids for COPD; using kinase inhibitors and antacids for IPF; antifibrotic, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, steroids, and other medications for IPF and CF; oxygen therapy as needed; and a lung transplant.

Learning to live in the moment

These three lung diseases have some similarities and differences. The way people approach them is different depending on the severity, environment, background, and access to medical care. Each of these lung diseases is caused by different things, and they also have different types of treatments. Claire died at the age of 21, but her words live on through her youtube videos where she openly shared the struggles and triumphs of her journey. She would be happy that her legacy continues to help millions with all lung conditions including CF, COPD, IPD.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Burgy et al. (2018). New players in chronic lung disease identified at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Paris 2018: from microRNAs to extracellular vesicles. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.21037/jtd.2018.08.20

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