A new study has found that coughing may be a life threatening sign for patients with the lung scarring disease, known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

A study published in the journal Respirology, found that patients with lung scarring disease who also cough are more likely to develop advanced forms of the disease that may be life threatening.

When idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis develops, tissue deep in the lungs becomes thick and scarred, likely due to a response to an unknown substance.

The condition affects approximately 100,000 individuals in the United States, killing up to half within three years of the diagnosis.

Most patients suffering with the condition experience shortness of breath, which is a warning sign that the patient has a serious form of the disease. The second most common symptom is cough.

Christopher Ryerson, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco and his colleagues studied 242 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and found that cough was present in 84 percent of patients.

They found that cough was more common in patients with advanced disease and in those who have never smoked.

The presence of cough predicted more rapid disease progression, regardless of the severity of a patient’s disease, which indicates that the presence of cough may predict which patients are likely to die prematurely or need a lung transplant in the near future.

Dr. Ryerson and his colleagues concluded that patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that cough may have a worse prognosis compared with patients who do not cough.

"These findings improve our understanding of cough in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis," said Dr. Ryerson.

Additional studies are needed to validate the results of this study, however patients who cough may benefit from closer monitoring and more aggressive treatments.

"These findings improve our understanding of cough in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis," said Dr. Ryerson.