Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a comprehensive term used to describe many conditions that induce lung scarring (fibrosis). Scarring leads to stiffness in the lungs, making it hard to inhale and get oxygen to the circulatory system (bloodstream). Damage caused by ILDs to the lungs is frequently irreversible and deteriorates over a long time.
Anybody can get infected with interstitial lung disorder including youngsters. Numerous things can expand the danger of or cause ILDs, including genetics, certain drugs, or clinical therapies like radiation or chemotherapy. Vulnerability to unsafe materials has been associated with ILDs, such as asbestosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Individuals with autoimmune disorders, for example, sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis, are also at higher risk of acquiring an ILD. Smoking can cause ILDs and exacerbate the condition, which is why anyone diagnosed is strongly urged to quit. Unfortunately, in many cases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the causes may be unknown.
What are the symptoms of interstitial lung diseases?
The principal signs and symptoms of ILD’s are:
- Shortness of breath at rest, worsened by effort
- Dry cough
The symptoms and course of these diseases may vary from person to person. The common link between the many forms of the disease is that they all begin with an inflammation.
The disease may run a slow course or a rapid course. People with it may notice a variation in symptoms, from very mild to moderate to very severe. The condition may stay the same for a long time. Alternatively, it may change quickly. The course of the disease is unpredictable. If it progresses, the lung tissue thickens and becomes stiff. Breathing becomes more difficult.
- Bronchiolitis – This is inflammation of the small airways (bronchioles).
- Alveolitis – This is the inflammation of the air sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in the blood occur (alveoli).
- Vasculitis – This is inflammation that affects the small blood vessels (capillaries).
What are Interstitial Lung Disease Causes?
The cause of most interstitial lung disease is unknown.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause interstitial pneumonia. You can also get ILD if you regularly breathe in things that can bother your lungs. These include:
- Bird droppings/proteins (such as from exotic birds, chickens, or pigeons)
- Coal dust or various other metal clouds of dust from working in the mines
- Grain dust from farming
- Silica dust
It is rare, but certain drugs can cause ILD:
- Some antibiotics, like nitrofurantoin
- Some anti-inflammatory drugs, like rituximab
- Chemotherapy drugs like bleomycin
- Heart medications such as amiodarone
Anyone can get interstitial lung disease, but some things can put you at higher risk:
- Age. Adults are much more likely to get ILD, but children can, too.
- Autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Genetics. Some conditions are passed down among family members.
- Radiation treatments for cancer
How is interstitial lung disease diagnosed?
To diagnose an ILD, your doctor will probably order a chest X-ray or CT scan to get a better look at your lungs. A lung function test may be used to measure your total lung capacity, which may have deteriorated due to ILD. More invasive procedures may be needed in more severe cases and diagnose a specific type of ILD, such as bronchoscopy or a lung biopsy.
How is interstitial lung disease treated?
Treatment for ILD is designed to preserve the lungs ability to function and keep the disease from getting worse. Treatment depends on many factors, including the type of ILD and how severe it is, and includes:
- Medications can help improve lung function by reducing inflammation and fibrosis. Medications to reduce inflammation include steroids and other rheumatologic drugs. Certain medications are also used to stop further fibrosis.
- Oxygen therapy: Extra oxygen delivered through a nose tube, mask or tent can make breathing easier. This therapy raises the blood’s oxygen levels so that every breath is more productive.
- Pulmonary and exercise therapy: Breathing exercises and increased physical activity can improve lung fitness.
- Lung transplant: Some people with severe cases of ILD undergo lung transplants to help prolong their lives.