What Causes Scarring of the Lungs?

Scarring of lung tissue causes a variety of problems, from difficulty breathing to lack of adequate oxygen intake for optimal function of body organs. Understanding the causes of lung tissue damage helps you make wiser choices about your lifestyle habits. Damage to the bronchi, the two major airways to the lungs; the bronchoiles, the smaller branches of airways; or the alveoli, the small air sacs, may be affected by lifestyle, disease and environmental factors, which can lead to scarring of the lungs.

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Long term exposure to pollutants in the air may lead to lung damage and scarring. For example, metal dust shavings, asbestos or inhaling silica dust particles are environmental hazards of working in the construction industry. A pool cleaner who continually inhales chlorine or acid fumes may also experience some scarring of lung tissues. Farm workers exposed to chicken droppings or dust, moldy hay dust particles or grains grown in crops also face risks of lung damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Radiation Therapy

If you have been diagnosed and treated for lung cancer with radiation therapy, you may also suffer some lung damage caused by scarred tissues. The degree of damage is determined by the length and duration of radiation treatments and whether or not the person was also treated with chemotherapy drugs congruent with the radiation therapy. Some chemotherapy drugs also cause damage and scarring to the membranes lining and protecting the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is caused by a gradual thickening of lung tissues, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Fibrosis is a medical term for scarring, and idiopathic means there is no known cause for the condition. This thickening leads to large areas of scarring and prevents the affected lung tissues from properly receiving, exchanging or transferring vital oxygen to all parts of the body. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is one of many types of interstitial lung disease processes, which may potentially lead to damage or scarring to the lungs.


A great majority of lung scarring cases may be caused by pneumonia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Pneumonia inflames lung tissues, causes damage and produces scarring in the interstitium, or fluids in the lungs that lubricate and protect the alveoli, or air sacs in the lungs, according to Medline Plus and the National Institutes of Health.