The death of much loved television presenter Keith Chegwin has shocked many of us.

Keith Chegwin has sadly died due to Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, known as IPF.

What is IPF?

IPF is a scarring to the lung which stops the lungs breathing properly. Over a course of time this fibrosis causes the lungs to stiffen and less able to inflate and take in oxygen. IPF is a progressive condition. It gets worse over time and does not improve. The rate at which the condition gets worse is different with each patient.

The damage from IPF stops the victim getting air into the lungs properly or for that inhaled air to convert into oxygen for the body. IPF has a prognosis worse than many cancers and most sufferers go on to develop respiratory failure and die of suffocation as their lung capacity reduces. The disease – which kills 5,300 people every year – creates a build-up of scar tissue in the lung which makes them thick and less able to take in oxygen.

Regardless of treatment, people with IPF, which usually strikes those in their late 40s or early 50s – on average only live for around three to five years from diagnosis.Although still considered a rare disease, IPF has become more common in both the UK and the US over the last 30 years.

The symptoms tend to develop gradually and get slowly worse over time. Symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • a persistent dry cough
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • rounded and swollen fingertips (clubbed fingers)

There is no cure and it is very difficult to predict how long someone with IPF will survive at the time of diagnosis.

Regular monitoring over time can indicate whether it is getting worse quickly or slowly

IPF caused Keith's death

Keith died after a long battle with IPF

What causes it?

The term idiopathic means of unknown origin. There is no current known cause. IPF is commonly confused by both doctors and patients and lawyers. It is suspected that IPF could be due to some work dust such as wood dust but there is no current strong medical support for this.

What is the difference between asbestosis and IPF

Typically asbestosis is a gradual condition. The long-term exposure to asbestos gradually breaks down and stiffens the lung tissue. IPF tends to come on sporadically and then deteriorates much more quickly with the average victim surviving no more than five years.

Asbestosis tends to be much more gradual. The victim is unlikely to recover but may reach a plateau of recovery. With careful management, possible use of medication and some use of oxygen the day-to-day impact can be managed slightly better.

The symptoms of IPF tend to start with getting out of breath. Typically victims get finger clubbing. There are about 6000 people per year diagnosed with IPF.

What should you do if you suspect you have IPF?

We are expecting a very busy Christmas for the NHS. For these reasons we are cautious about telling people to trouble the doctors unless they have to. However we echo the NHS advice on lung cancer–

We recommend that if you are having problems with your chest you discuss these with your doctor. You can then decide if a chest x-ray,breathing tests or other investigations such as a bronchoscopy are needed.

If you see your doctor with chest symptoms we recommend the give them a full and clear work history. Explain if you have been any exposed to any asbestos, coal, mineral,wood or other dusts or chemicals during your working life. The more information the doctor has, the more likely they will be able to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

Can I claim for IPF?

Sadly no reported compensation cases of IPF exist. Unless medical experts prove a link between IPF and work exposure to dust or chemicals then no claim can be made. At Corries we keep a close eye on any medical developments. If any show a link then we will keep people updated.

Corries comment

We are very said to hear of the death of Keith. We hope that his death helps to highlight this disease which is all too often caught too late to treat or make easier to cope with. If you have problems which sound like IPF or other chest disease then see your doctor – before it is too late.

The British Lung Foundation provide much helpful information – follow this link for more detailed information

If you have had a diagnosis of work disease due to exposure to asbestos or other dust and call our friendly team on 0800 083 7839.