Fibrosis is the creation of extra connective tissue in response to some type of damage or injury to the body caused by environmental factors or health conditions. Also referred to as scar tissue, this process hardens the tissues fusing them together. However, unlike common scar tissue as can be observed when there is a minor split or cut in the skin, causes of fibrosis include conditions inside the body when there is a long-standing problem creating inflammation or recurring injury.
Whereas normal scar tissue can result in a permanent change in the structure of the skin or organ involved fibrosis may result in damage to the tissues or organs in the surrounding or underlying areas. Depending on the causes of fibrosis, it may also become progressive continuing to damage more of the surrounding area. This can result in a decrease in circulation inhibiting the transportation of key nutrients and the removal of waste products in the body. In turn, this stunted circulation can result in increasing the risk of infection as well as intensifying generalized pain and swelling.
This abnormal thickening of tissues can occur in a localized spot such as the lungs, referred to as pulmonary fibrosis. In the lungs, damage can decrease the elasticity inhibiting the ability of the lungs to expand correctly. This can occur in response to environmental factors such as repeated or continued exposure to pollutants, chemicals or toxins such as radiation. Certain medications or sufferers of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), otherwise referred to as chronic heartburn, may also experience a certain amount of scarring in the lungs.
Causes of fibrosis in the pulmonary system may also include the response of the body to lung conditions such as tuberculosis or chronic pneumonia. The infection process or the use of medications for a prolonged period of time may also be a factor in the causes of fibrosis. Some autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly referred to as lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, can also contribute to the causes of fibrosis and scar the lungs as well as other organs in the body.
When this reaction involves the entire body it is referred to as cystic fibrosis, also known as mucoviscidosis. This form of widespread scarring is brought about by an abnormal change in a gene. This alteration changes a protein that controls the movement of salts through the body. This can affect many body systems including the lungs, digestion and reproduction. Cystic fibrosis can severely disturb breathing and nutrition and because of its progressive nature, is often fatal.