Award-winning country music artist, Joe Nichols is teaming up with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to raise awareness of the often-misdiagnosed fatal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Nichols’ father, Michael, suffered with symptoms of IPF for three years before being diagnosed and eventually died from the disease at age 46.
Nichols is sharing his father’s story as part of a national education campaign called Breathless: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at IPF. The campaign brings Nichols together with real people sharing real stories about how IPF has touched and impacted their lives. If individuals think they may have IPF symptoms, the campaign urges them to take action to get diagnosed early and learn about treatment options. People are encouraged to visit the campaign website – www.BreathlessIPF.com – and share the videos and educational content via social media to help raise awareness of this disease.
Although considered “rare”, IPF affects up to 132,000 Americans, and approximately 40,000 people die from the disease each year, as many as breast cancer. Early diagnosis and proper care are critical to help people with IPF treat their condition. However, up to half of IPF cases are initially misdiagnosed so most people suffer with symptoms for almost two years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.
“Often times I look back on the last two decades with bittersweet feelings because just when my music career was taking off, my father’s health was declining,” said Nichols. “The breathlessness he experienced affected him to the point where he couldn’t walk across the room without becoming short of breath. Sadly, it took three years before my father was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and he eventually lost his fight at a young age. It’s important for me to share my story to help others, because I don’t want people to go through the physical and emotional difficulties my family did during those years before he was eventually diagnosed.”
IPF causes permanent scarring of the lungs. As the disease progresses, less air flows in and out of the lungs, and vital organs are deprived of oxygen. IPF is four times more common than Lou Gehrig’s disease and there are nearly 50,000 newly diagnosed cases of IPF every year. Most people with IPF live just three to five years after diagnosis.
Diagnosing IPF can be difficult and take years because the symptoms – breathlessness during activity, a dry and persistent cough, chest discomfort, fatigue and weakness – are similar to, and often confused with, other “better known” and more common diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or congestive heart failure. Early diagnosis and proper care are critical to helping people with IPF, as there are medicines available to treat this devastating disease.
“Living with IPF is hard but living with this disease without being diagnosed can be worse,” said Marilyn Glassberg, MD, Director, Professor of Medicine and Director, Rare and Interstitial Lung Disease Program, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “If you think you or someone you love might be experiencing the symptoms of IPF, then go see a doctor right away so that the proper tests and screenings can be performed. Your doctor can refer you to a lung specialist called a pulmonologist to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.”
There are IPF treatments available, including supplemental oxygen, cough management and pulmonary rehabilitation, which can include special exercises or breathing strategies. In 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first drugs specifically indicated for the treatment of IPF.
Nichols and Dr Glassberg are inviting everyone to help spread the word about IPF to educate and empower those who may have the disease. By visiting the campaign website – www.BreathlessIPF.com – people can learn more about IPF and the stories of people living with the condition. They also are encouraged to make a difference by sharing the videos and educational content through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to help reach people and empower them to take action.
“Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to be supporting Breathless: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at IPF as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to addressing the significant, unmet needs of people affected by respiratory diseases,” said Al Masucci, vice president, IPF Business Unit, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “Despite the severity of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, many people suffer in the dark for years before receiving a diagnosis. This shouldn’t be the case, and through the campaign, we hope to educate and encourage people to recognize the signs of IPF and to see a doctor as early as possible.”
Learn more at www.BreathlessIPF.com and help make a difference by spreading the word through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.