Decoding Interstitial Lung Disease : Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is a broad term used to describe a group of lung disorders that affect the interstitium, which is the area between the air sacs in the lungs. This can cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs, making it difficult for oxygen to pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. Patients who have ILD may develop breathlessness when carrying out regular physical activities. They may also notice a dry cough and increased phlegm production when they wake up in the morning. If ILD is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, it can cause severe damage to the lungs which can be fatal. Interstitial Lung Disease is not fatal right away, unlike some other lung conditions. In fact, most types of ILD have no cure.

Treatment for this condition depends on the symptoms. The type of treatment will vary from patient to patient. Many patients do not require surgery or medical intervention, however, there are two main types of surgery that can be used for ILD patients. The first type is called lung volume reduction surgery, where the surgeon removes a large amount of air and exuded liquid from the lungs to improve breathing capacity and reduce shortness of breath.

Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease:

There are several potential causes of Interstitial Lung Disease, including: 

  1. Occupational and Environmental Exposures: Exposure to certain substances like asbestos, silica, and coal dust can contribute to ILD. 
  2. Connective Tissue Disorders: ILD can be associated with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma.
  3. Medications: Certain types of medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics, can cause ILD.
  4. Infections: Some infections, including certain types of pneumonia and tuberculosis, can lead to ILD.
  5. Unknown Causes: In some cases, the cause of ILD is unknown, and it is referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease:

The symptoms of ILD are typically caused by damage to the lungs themselves and include: 

  1. Shortness of Breath: Interstitial Lung Disease can cause shortness of breath because of the scarring caused by the disease. Additionally, the extra fluid in the lungs can lead to a feeling of suffocating and difficulty breathing when walking. This symptom is often extremely frustrating for patients who have ILD and can cause them to lose their sense of balance which can result in falls and other serious accidents. 
  2. Breathlessness After Exertion: This symptom is most apparent when the patient exercises. They may notice that they experience shortness of breath and cough after walking up a flight of stairs or jogging for a short period of time.
  3. Wheezing: Patients with ILD will often experience wheezing, which is caused by inflammation and scarring in the airways. This sound occurs as the patient breathes in, and it can be alarming to the patient and those around them.
  4. Cough: ILD patients will often notice that their cough comes in cycles where they may have periods of normal breathing and then periods of shortness of breath. Although it is important to remain hydrated when dealing with this condition, it is also important to remember that ILD patients should not be smoking or drinking alcohol. Smoking can irritate the lungs and cause a lot more complications than just dry coughs.

Treatment of Interstitial Lung Disease:

Interstitial Lung Disease can be extremely difficult to treat. However, there are several treatments that can help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients who have ILD. The main types of treatment are listed below: 

  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: This type of rehabilitation is often recommended for patients who have ILD. This type of rehabilitation helps patients be more active and speak with a pulmonary rehabilitation therapist about how to better manage shortness of breath and the impact it has on their lives.
  • Medications: Interstitial Lung Disease can be treated with a variety of medications. This type of medication may help improve symptoms and stop the progression of the disease. Patients should consult their doctor before taking any kind of medication for ILD.
  • Oxygen Therapy: Oxygen therapy is also an important part of the treatment for ILD. This type of therapy can help increase lung function and oxygenation, which allows for better respiration.
  • Lung Transplantation: This type of therapy is an extreme measure and is often reserved for the most severe cases of ILD. This procedure will remove scarred and damaged lung tissue and replace it with healthy lung tissue from a donor.

In Conclusion:

Interstitial Lung Disease is a serious condition that affects the lungs. The two main types of treatment for this disease are lung volume reduction surgery and oxygen therapy, but there are other types of treatment as well. Some medications can help treat symptoms, and pulmonary rehabilitation may help patients learn how to better manage shortness of breath. If you suffer from any symptoms that may indicate ILD, it is best to consult your doctor and discuss the different treatment options available.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 16, 2023

Recent Posts

Related Posts