Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a group of several diseases and not a single, separate disease. This disease affects the interstitial of the lungs. Interstitium is the tissue and the space surrounding the air sacs or alveoli of the lungs. ILD may be seen when an injury happens to the chest or the lungs and an abnormal healing response is triggered. As a response it the injury, our body makes just enough tissue for recovery. Sometimes though, it happens that the tissue generated is way too much and that thickens the organ. This is what exactly happens in interstitial lung disease. The interstitium of the lungs is a very thin, lacy structure that runs all over the lungs like a network. This network protects the alveoli. When, because of this awry regeneration, the interstitium thickens; it gets scarred and causes difficulty in breathing the air in.

There are many types of ILD, more than about 200, to be precise. This is because they are usually classified according to their causes. And there are great many causes for interstitial lung disease.

Can Interstitial Lung Disease Be Treated?

Interstitial lung disease is a group of diseases. As the interstitial thickens and gets scarred, this damage is an irreversible one and there is no cure to this disease at present. However, the treatment can slow down the progress rate of the disease, thereby improving the respiration and giving some relief to the person by making breathing somewhat easier. If it is observed that the interstitial lung disease is caused due to some exposure to a particular substance, then the first and the foremost advice would be to eliminate the causative factor altogether.

Other treatment options may include oxygen therapy as supplementation, anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressants and anti-fibrotic drugs. Pulmonary rehabilitation can be advised.

Interstitial lung disease is a restrictive and irreversible disease. There is no cure for the disease. But, with the help of medications and supportive treatment, one can improve the quality of life by slowing down the progress of the disease.

Signs And Symptoms Of Interstitial Lung Disease

The signs and symptoms of interstitial lung disease vary from person to person. It depends on the severity of the disease and many times, the type of the disease too.

The most important thing to be seen in interstitial lung disease is that as one cannot breathe in enough air into the lungs, the lungs cannot expand fully. As a result, there is a reduced supply of oxygen and hence there is a shortness of breath. This is seen more prominently when one does some strenuous activity, like exercise or stairs climbing etc. As the disease progresses, it becomes even harder to breathe, and as a result one experiences shortness of breath even at rest.

  • Another noticeable symptom is persistent dry cough.
  • The symptoms usually do not subside. In fact they keep getting worse over time.

Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease

Many times, the exact causes of interstitial lung disease are not known. Such conditions are called idiopathic interstitial lung disease. Some other causes of interstitial lung disease may be over exposure to certain toxic substances or irritants. Certain medical conditions are also responsible for interstitial lung disease. Some medicines may cause ILD too.

According to this, the causes of interstitial lung disease can be divided into a few categories. ILD caused due to over exposure to toxic substances, interstitial lung disease due to drugs and medications and ILD due to autoimmune diseases.

ILD Caused Due To Over Exposure To Toxic Substances- exposure to certain substances like asbestos, silica dust, mold, coal dust, tobacco smoke etc. can lead to ILD.

ILD Caused Due To Drugs And Medications- anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, certain chemotherapy drugs, even some heart medications can be a cause for interstitial lung disease. Though most of the people tolerate these medicines, some can be susceptible to any or all of these medications.

Autoimmune Disease Related Interstitial Lung Disease - conditions like scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis; vasculitis etc. can attack the body’s immune system and may damage other organs, including lungs.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: October 10, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

We'll help you live each day to the healthiest