Interstitial lung disease is a name that covers a group of lung conditions that cause chronic breathlessness. The most common type of ILD is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The major problem with ILD is inflammation of the lung tissue leading to scarring (fibrosis) of the air sacs (alveoli) which interferes with the ability of the lungs to deliver oxygen to the body.
Interstitial lung disease is a name that covers a group of lung conditions that cause chronic breathlessness. The most common type of ILD is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).The major problem with ILD is inflammation of the lung tissue leading to scarring (fibrosis) of the air sacs (alveoli) which interferes with the ability of the lungs to deliver oxygen to the body.
Breathlessness on exertion and occasionally a dry cough are the most common symptoms of interstitial lung disease. It is uncommon for people to develop breathlessness at rest, chest pain or to have a productive cough.
Most interstitial lung diseases are caused by the body’s own inflammation and repair system. Some ILD’s are caused by widespread disease in the body such as Sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. ILD can be caused by viral infection, drugs, radiation and occupational hazards.
Viral infections can sometimes cause interstitial lung disease. Bacterial infections include pneumonia and fungal infections.
Occupations hazards include – asbestos, coal dust, cotton dust, sand (silica) dust.
Quite a few drugs taken for other diseases have side-effects that can damage the lung. Some of these drugs include bleomycin, methotrexate and amiodarone.
Radiation – some people who received radiation for breast or lung cancer can show signs of lung damage long after they receive the radiation treatment. The severity of the lung disease may include how much or how long your lung was exposed to radiation, and whether there was any underlying lung disease.
There are many different types of ILD and they are often difficult to distinguish between. Usually the doctor will initially order at least some if not all of the following tests:
- Chest x-ray
- Lung function testing
- Blood tests
- Computed Tomography (CT scan).
Treatment can involve a range of drugs depending on your type of interstitial lung disease.
Drugs such as corticosteroids can help to reduce inflammation, azathioprine is a cytotoxic normally used to prevent organ rejection after transplantation and acetylcisteine which is a type of antioxidant.
Oxygen therapy may be prescribed by your doctor to increase the amount of oxygen circulating through your blood.
Pulmonary rehabilitation may also be of some help to people to improve daily function. This type of program focuses on teaching you how to breath more efficiently, how to exercise for your disease, education and nutritional information to improve quality of life.
Scar tissue formation in your lungs can lead to a series of life-threatening complications, including:
Low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia)
Because interstitial lung disease reduces the amount of oxygen you take in and the amount that enters your bloodstream, you're likely to develop lower than normal blood oxygen levels. Lack of oxygen can severely disrupt your body's basic functioning.
High blood pressure in your lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
Unlike systemic high blood pressure, this condition affects only the arteries in your lungs. It begins when scar tissue restricts the smallest blood vessels, limiting blood flow in your lungs. This in turn raises pressure within the pulmonary arteries. Pulmonary hypertension is a serious illness that becomes progressively worse.
Right-sided heart failure (cor pulmonale)
This serious condition occurs when your heart's lower right chamber (right ventricle) — which is less muscular than the left — has to pump harder than usual to move blood through obstructed pulmonary arteries. Eventually the right ventricle fails from the extra strain.