IPF: Symptoms Make an Appointment Refer a Patient Ask a Question Reviewed by Jeffrey James Swigris, DO, MS (September 01, 2017) The most common symptom of IPF is shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea. Many people describe this as a feeling of breathlessness. The earliest symptom of IPF is shortness of breath with exertion or strenuous activity. Many people ignore this symptom or ascribe it to being old or out of shape and simply reduce the amount of physical activity they do. For example, earlier in the course of IPF, you may notice shortness of breath only when running or hurrying to catch a bus. Later in the course of IPF, you may notice shortness of breath when casually walking across the street. IPF is isolated to the lungs, and does not cause eye or ear problems, chest pain, swelling or pain in the joints, or skin rash. Other common symptoms include a dry, hacking cough and fatigue. Symptoms of IPF may develop and worsen gradually or, less commonly, they may also worsen rapidly. Instances of acute IPF worsening occur in about 10 percent of people. This is called an acute exacerbation of IPF. The cause of acute exacerbations is unknown, but lung infections may play a role. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is typically a life-shortening condition. Studies have shown that the median survival among people with IPF is 3-5 years from the time of diagnosis. This means that, in those studies, by 3-5 years after diagnosis, 50 percent of people with IPF have died and 50 percent are alive. IPF: Diagnosis Clinical Trials For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.