Interstitial Lung Disease

1 What is Interstitial Lung Disease?

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a group of lung diseases that cause progressive irreversible  scarring of the lung tissue. This causes the lungs to become stiff and impair the lung's ability to expand during respiration. This makes breathing difficult and reduces the oxygen supply to the body.

Some of the causes of of ILD are:

  • autoimmune or rheumatologic diseases,
  • occupational and organic exposures,
  • certain medications,
  • exposure to  radiation.

However,in some cases of ILD the cause is idiopathic (unknown).

Examples of IDL with no known case include:

  • progressive fibrotic lung disease,
  • idiopathic interstitial pneumonias like nonspecific interstitial pneumonia,
  • sarcoidosis.

Treatment mostly consists of giving medications that can slow the scarring of the lung tissue. However, most people require lung transplants since the drugs do stop the lungs from scarring.

2 Symptoms

The symptoms of interstitial lung disease are limited to the respiratory tract.

They include:

3 Making a Diagnosis

A physical examination and a chest x-ray can help doctors to diagnose interstitial lung disease (ILD).

Pulmonary function test can be used to check the function of the lungs.

Other tests used include:

  • blood tests to check for autoimmune diseases,
  • lung biopsy for further laboratory investigations. 

4 Treatment

Treatment of interstitial lung disease (ILD) depends on the diagnosis.

Treatment ranges from medications to lung transplantation.

The inflammation is usually treated with immnosuppressive drugs, although they are not effective in idiopathic  pulmonary fibrosis.

Medications do not reverse but only reduce the rate scarring or fibrosis.

Lung transplantation is required in severe cases.

5 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with interstitial lung disease.

Factors that increase the risks of having interstitial lung disease include:

Some of the life-threatening complications associated with ILD include:

  • acute exacerbation,
  • a rapid worsening of respiratory function, increased lung infiltrates seen on x-rays and shortness of breath not cased by other diseases like congestive heart failure.
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Low oxygen in the blood due to reduced function of the lungs
  • Resporatory failure