Etiology and treatment of cough in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Christine L. Vigeland, Andrew H. Hughes, Maureen R. Horton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disease of dysregulated wound healing leading to unremitting scarring and loss of lung function. The predominant symptoms are dyspnea on exertion and a persistent dry cough. For patients with IPF, cough is more than just bothersome; it has a significant negative impact on quality of life and is a marker of disease severity and progression. The etiology of cough in IPF is unclear but may be due to architectural distortion of the lungs, increased sensitivity of the cough reflex, airway inflammation, or changes in mucus production and clearance. There also may be an overlap between IPF cough and cough due to other common etiologies such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, upper airway cough syndrome, and medications. There are no approved therapies to specifically treat IPF cough, and recently approved medications for IPF have not been evaluated in cough. Few clinical trials have focused on treatments for IPF cough. To date, there is only one randomized, placebo control therapeutic study for IPF cough with thalidomide, which significantly reduced IPF cough and improved quality of life. Two additional cohort studies report that interferon-α and prednisolone also decrease IPF cough. However, no medication is approved to treat IPF cough. Currently, the mainstay of therapy for IPF cough is standard cough suppressants, which have limited efficacy and often intolerable side effects. Future studies are needed to determine an effective therapy to alleviate this particularly debilitating symptom and improve overall quality of life for patients suffering with IPF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-104
Number of pages7
JournalRespiratory Medicine
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Cough
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Interferon-α
  • Thalidomide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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