Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is not one condition, but rather an umbrella term for a variety of lung conditions. What these conditions share in common is that they cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs. This scarring can result in permanent damage to the lungs, which inhibits the intake of oxygen into your lungs.

  • Overview
  • Causes & Symptoms
  • Diagnosis & Treatment

What is COPD?


Without the ability to process the necessary amounts of oxygen, you may experience difficulty performing your favorite tasks, and, eventually, difficulty with simple tasks like walking around.

Interstitial lung disease is not curable and the scarring it causes is irreversible. However, medical treatments are available to help patients slow the progression of their disease and assist with the ability to breathe clearly again.

Since full lung function cannot be regained from interstitial lung disease, it’s important to identify and treat its symptoms early on before further damage is caused.

What Are the Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease?

Interstitial lung disease encompasses a variety of conditions, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis and pneumonitis, so the symptoms widely vary. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical assistance:

  • Persistent dry cough
  • Shortness of breath, especially
    during physical activity
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Coughing up blood

It doesn’t matter if you are a smoker or someone who leads a healthy lifestyle, these symptoms are serious and can result in the development of permanent damage and other serious lung conditions. Please, seek medical assistance immediately for treatment.

What Are the Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease?

As with most chronic lung conditions, smoking is linked to interstitial lung disease. If you smoke, used to smoke or have been around a lot of secondhand smoke, you may be at a higher risk for developing interstitial lung disease.

Interstitial lung disease typically develops inflammation as a reaction of your lungs to some perceived external threat.

The following are known to cause interstitial lung disease:

  • Smoking
  • Dusty environments
  • Chemicals
  • Asbestos
  • Radiation
  • Certain medications – certain anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs, heart medications and antibiotics are linked to interstitial lung disease​

How is Interstitial Lung Disease diagnosed?

To accurately diagnose your lung condition, your physician will perform a series of tests and go over some questions about your medical history, health, wellness and any smoking habits have or have had in the past.

Since interstitial lung disease includes many lung diseases, the tests your physician orders may include many of the following:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Blood-gas analysis
  • Bronchoscopy

The objective of diagnosis is to quickly identify the cause of your interstitial lung disease so that treatment may be administered to slow the progression of your scarring.

How is Interstitial Lung Disease treated?

As mentioned earlier, interstitial lung disease cannot be cured, so the objective is to manage the symptoms and slow the disease’s progression.

Treatment varies depending on the exact nature of your interstitial lung disease and its severity, your age, your lifestyle and your overall health and wellbeing.

Many treatments for interstitial lung disease include the following:

  • Medications – depending on the cause of your condition, your medications may include steroids and anti-inflammatory medication to help your body’s ability to fight inflammation and assist in preventing scarring.
  • Oxygen therapy – the use of supplemental oxygen at scheduled periods throughout the day or for the entire day helps deliver fresh oxygen to your bloodstream that is otherwise difficult to obtain due to disease.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation – many interstitial lung disease patients can experience better breathing and quality of life with the exercises, nutritional guidance and counseling provided by pulmonary rehabilitation.
    In more extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove damaged tissue. Some patients may even qualify for a lung transplant. For questions about qualifying for a lung transplant, you should speak with your primary care provider.​


Is COPD preventable?

One major step toward preventing interstitial lung disease is to quit smoking. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the amount of irritation you put on your lungs, reducing your chances of developing interstitial lung disease.

Additionally, if you work in an environment with a lot of dust, smoke or toxins in the air, you need to follow proper safety measures and wear proper safety equipment.

In cases where inflammation is caused by a genetic condition, prevention is more difficult and the disease may be unpredictable. If you’re already suffering from a lung condition, you must closely monitor your symptoms to see if anything new develops that may be the result of interstitial lung disease.

Would you like to speak with a patient coordinator at the Lung Health Institute about getting assistance for your breathing difficulties? Contact us today to schedule your free consultation to discover how our treatments may assist you.​

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