06/09/2017 10:23 BST | Updated 11/12/2017 16:56 GMT

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF): Symptoms For Incurable Lung Condition Following Keith Chegwin's Death

6,000 people are diagnosed with IPF every year in the UK.

Keith Chegwin has died aged 60 after a “long-term battle” with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The star, best known for hosting children’s game show Cheggers Play Pop, died in his home surrounded by loved ones. His family said the incurable lung condition had “rapidly worsened towards the end of this year”.

A statement from Keith’s family revealed: “Keith died peacefully at home shortly after midnight on the 11th of December. His wife Maria, his daughter Rose and his son Ted were by his side.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Severn Hospice for the kindness, support and care they have shown us all over the last few weeks.”

So what exactly is IPF and why does it have such devastating effects? We spoke to the British Lung Foundation about symptoms, causes and treatment.

Ben A. Pruchnie via Getty Images
Keith Chegwin

What is IPF?

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a condition that causes progressive scarring of the lungs. 

The build-up of scar tissue is called fibrosis. It causes the lungs to become stiffer and lose their elasticity so they’re less able to inflate and take oxygen from the air you breathe.

It’s estimated that 6,000 people are diagnosed with IPF every year in the UK. Men are more likely to be affected, as are people over the age of 70.

The condition gradually worsens over time. In some people the symptoms can worsen over several years, while others deteriorate more rapidly. 

“It’s difficult to predict how IPF will progress,” a spokesperson from the British Lung Foundation told HuffPost UK.

“Sometimes when the condition has been stable, people can get sudden flare-ups of symptoms, called acute exacerbations.”

The average life expectancy of sufferers is three to five years.

Symptoms

The main symptom of IPF is breathlessness. You might notice that you become out of breath when exerting energy, for example climbing the stairs, or you might feel constantly out of breath, even when you’re not moving.

Other symptoms of the illness include a cough that doesn’t go away and feeling tired all the time. 

Clubbing, which affects the fingers and toes, is also a symptom. This is where changes occur in the areas under and around the toenails and fingernails, resulting in them going out of shape.

Treatment

Unfortunately scar tissue cannot be changed back to healthy tissue, meaning there is no cure for IPF. However there are various treatments which can help ease symptoms of the illness.

Firstly, it is recommended that people with IPF stop smoking. 

According to the British Lung Foundation, pulmonary rehabilitation, a tailored exercise programme, can will help patients cope with feeling short of breath.

Meanwhile oxygen therapy is recommended when a person’s oxygen levels in their blood falls.

“You can have a portable oxygen cylinder or an oxygen concentrator at home, to make the air you breathe richer in oxygen,” explained a British Lung Foundation spokesperson.

Medication may also be prescribed to help ease symptoms and slow the scarring in a patient’s lungs.