Is Interstitial Lung Disease The Same As COPD?

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are both chronic and lung debilitating diseases. However, though there are a few similarities between these diseases, there are a few distinguishing factors too. The main difference lies in the physical damage caused by both these conditions.

Let us first have a look at what the differences between these two are.

Is Interstitial Lung Disease The Same As COPD?

The interstitial lung disease (ILD) is not the same as COPD. In Interstitial lung disease, the interstitium of the lungs become thick and scarred, meaning that the air sacs become scarred too. In COPD, there is an obstruction of the airways and air sacs. The interstitial lung disease when progressed is not reversible, whereas the symptoms of COPD can be managed even in the later stages of the progress of the disease. The major difference that is seen in the symptoms is that in ILD, the inspiration is hampered because of the restriction in the air sacs. However, in COPD, the expelling of air is compromised due to blockage of air sacs.

The interstitial lung disease is thus restrictive in nature, whereas COPD is obstructive. The chances of recovery from interstitial lung disease are very poor. However, a COPD has good survival rate. The causative factors of both the conditions differ too. Interstitial lung disease usually has unknown cause, also it is uncertain as to how the disease would progress. COPD however is most of the times caused by smoking and the progress of the disease is almost certain.

Now, let us have a look at the similarities between the two.

If we consider the signs and symptoms, then two major symptoms that are common in both are shortness of breath and persistent cough. Both the diseases show progress if they are diagnosed early. However, generally both of them are diagnosed quite at the later stages of progress. The earlier stages of bot the conditions often go unnoticed. Also, both the conditions have almost similar risk factors like, smoking, age, sex, occupation, family history, medications etc.

Signs and symptoms of interstitial lung disease and COPD are similar as well. Both the conditions present with shortness of breath, which keeps getting worse progressively. Also, there is a persistent cough present in both the conditions, but while it is a dry cough in ILD, that sounds like a hacking cough; in COPD it is associated with mucus secretion and wheezing. Any respiratory infections make both the conditions worse. Tiredness and fatigue are seen in both the cases. This happens as there is a reduced oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output from the blood. There can be an unwanted weight loss as eating becomes a laborious business.

Treatment for Interstitial Lung Disease and COPD

Interstitial lung disease is a restrictive lung disease and is caused most of the times by unknown factors. The thickening and scarring of the lungs cannot be cured and hence the treatment for ILD is symptomatic. Very few medicines are available to treat the cause of ILD. Sometimes, if the interstitial lung disease is caused by inflammation, then drugs like immunosuppressants may be used. Oxygen therapy may have to be given as a supplement. Sometimes, there may be a need for mechanical ventilation. In obese people, positive pressure ventilation may have to be considered. This may also be useful in people with some nerve or muscle thickening.

COPD is an obstructive disease of the lungs. First and foremost, advice is to stop smoking. As the person is unable to expel all the air out of the lungs due to the blockage or narrowing of the airways, medicines that dilate the airways (known as bronchodilators) are used. Sometimes, if the obstruction is due to inflammation, then inhalable corticosteroids may be used.

Regular exercise, with the advice of the physician will improve the breathing distress and general quality of life in most of the cases. A prompt consultation and efficient treatment are the key factors in improvement of both ILD and COPD.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 17, 2018

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