What Are The Alternative Treatments For Interstitial Lung Disease?

Interstitial lung disease is a group of diseases/disorders affecting the tissues and spaces around the air sacs (alveoli), which is known as the interstitium in the lungs. It includes more than 200 different chronic lung disorders that damage the interstitium. It is also known as interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. The most common disorders affecting the lungs are pulmonary fibrosis, occupational diseases, connective tissue interstitial disease and sarcoidosis (it is the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells called as granulomas). They affect the normal absorption of oxygen in the lungs.

Interstitial lung disease affects the lungs in three ways; firstly it destroys the lung tissue due to which the interstitium becomes inflamed and then finally fibrosis or scarring starts in the alveoli and interstitium making the lung stiff and breathing difficult for the affected person. This lung scarring that is caused is usually irreversible. However with appropriate treatment the progression of the disease can be delayed. Most of the patients suffering from interstitial lung disease do not develop any alarming signs suddenly, but gradually as the disease progresses.

What Are The Alternative Treatments For Interstitial Lung Disease?

There are no proven alternative treatments for interstitial lung disease. Alternative treatment for interstitial lung disease includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle by incorporating a balanced diet, cessation of smoking and taking full coverage of vaccinations. A proper and healthy diet full of nutrients makes lungs clearer and relieves congestion, which in turn makes breathing easy. Quitting smoking increases the vital capacity of the lungs and hence better breathing. A full vaccination on time can prevent unwanted infections that might lead to respiratory insufficiency. A newer technique known as cellular therapy is also being used nowadays where analogous cells are used from the patient’s body itself. These cells are taken from the bone marrow or venous cells and they have the capacity to form many types of differentiated cells.

The use of anti-fibrotics is prevalent that help reduce the development of scar tissue. It helps in reducing the progression of lung damage. Colchicines and penicillamine have proven to be beneficial in clinical trials. In some cases pirfenidone has also shown good results in phase II trial. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation of lungs; however the benefits are usually temporary. Also corticosteroids taken in the long run can cause certain side effects such as glaucoma; bone loss, high blood sugar, and poor wound healing and increased susceptibility to infections. Cytotoxic drugs are also used to treat interstitial lung disease when steroid treatment fails. A lung transplant is necessary in patients where all other methods of treatment have failed.

How To Identify Interstitial Lung Disease?

Interstitial lung disease is usually described as chronic, non-malignant and non-infectious in nature. Although symptoms vary from person to person, but the basic terminology remains inflammation in the small airways of the lungs that will cause scarring in the lung tissue. Due to this scarring the lung tissue hardens and there is not enough expansion of the lungs while breathing, which leads to respiratory discomfort.

Some of the known causes that lead to interstitial lung disease are radiation exposure, connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma, sarcoidosis, genetic conditions and various pharmaceutical medications. It mostly affects adults in the age group of 40 to 70 years. Exposure to toxic agents such as asbestos, silica, metal, wood dusts and antigens can lead to interstitial lung disease.

The symptoms of interstitial lung disease are caused by abnormalities that characterize the disease into respiratory symptoms, symptoms caused by chest abnormalities, symptoms caused by changes in pulmonary function and those caused by microscopic patterns of inflammation and fibrosis. These symptoms include chest pains, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, dry chronic cough, lethargy, weakness, fatigue, tendency to tire easily even with moderate exercise, pain in muscle and joints, weight loss, clubbing of fingers and toes, edema in the lower legs, fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema), sleep apnea (difficulty in sleeping), headaches, fever and allergic reactions in some cases. An advanced stage of interstitial disease will present with breathlessness, ongoing fatigue, rapid breathing and confusion due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.

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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 20, 2018

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