What is IPF?

The most common ILD is called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF).

IPF is a type of chronic lung disease characterised by a progressive and irreversible scarring and decline in lung function. The cause of this is unknown. Fibrosis occurs when scars form causing excess thickened connective tissue and thickening of the alveolar walls.  This process results in reduced oxygen supply in the blood leading to breathlessness.

What do terms mean in IPF?

  • Idiopathic: any disease or condition where the cause is unknown.
  • Pulmonary: relating to the lungs.
  • Fibrosis: thickening and scarring of connective tissue.




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  • Around 32,500 people in the UK live with IPF and there are about 2,500 people in Scotland affected by it.
  • IPF is more common in people who smoke.
  • IPF is more common in men than in women.
  • IPF is predominantly a disease of the elderly, with a mean onset age of 67–69. However, IPF can appear in younger age groups (50+) especially if there is a family history of IPF.
  • IPF has a median life expectancy of three to five years from diagnosis with a prevalence that is increasing by 5% per year. There is no known cure.


  • Clinical review: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: Past, present and future, Owen J. Dempsey

IPF Animated explanation video - Health Sketch

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