What Are The Complications Of Interstitial Lung Disease?

The interstitial lung disease is of unknown cause, causes dryness, hardening and restriction of the lung, preventing its expansion, and as a result, there is a deterioration of lung function, and difficulty breathing, to produce death. This occurs due to deterioration of the pulmonary interstitium that is the tissue that is located between the pulmonary alveoli.

What Are The Complications Of Interstitial Lung Disease?

Acute Exacerbation, which is defined as the rapid deterioration of the disease with increased baseline dyspnea (respiratory distress) in less than 4 weeks is a complication of interstitial lung disease.

This disease can in its evolution present episodes of acute exacerbation, whose most accepted definition would be that episode of acute deterioration, with clinical significance, of the unidentified cause, in a patient with an underlying idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The incidence of IPF with acute exacerbation ranges from 5-19% of patients per year, and it is estimated that 47% of patients with IPF will present acute clinical deterioration before death. The sign that is invariably present is dyspnea, accompanied by a cough, fever and flu-like symptoms. The response to treatment is poor, although methylprednisolone seems to be the best therapeutic option.

Pulmonary Hypertension is a complication of interstitial lung disease; it causes a significant increase in mortality up to 28% per year compared to 5.5% of those who do not. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a rare disease that affects 15-50 people per million, of any age, race, condition, sex, although it is more frequent in women than men. Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a syndrome characterized by a progressive increase in pulmonary artery pressure greater than 25 mmHg. It is originated by alterations in the endothelium (walls of the blood capillaries) in the lungs, which cause an obstruction of the pulmonary microcirculation. This process is known as pulmonary vascular remodeling, which involves a successive elevation of pulmonary vascular resistance; the heart must work more to pump blood and right ventricular failure as a final event.

The existing drugs are only to alleviate the symptoms, they cannot reverse the vascular lesions of the disease and despite the fact that today there is no cure, there is much to be optimistic about and have high hopes since the treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension have evolved progressively in the last decade, while their complexity and evidence of their effectiveness have increased. The treatment process of patients with PAH cannot be considered a mere prescription of drugs, but a complex strategy that includes the initial assessment of the severity of the disease and the subsequent response to treatment.

Pulmonary Emphysema: This pathology consists of a permanent enlargement of air spaces distal to the respiratory bronchioles, with the destruction of the alveolar wall, with or without overt fibrosis. Pulmonary emphysema is a complication of interstitial lung disease

Most patients with emphysema are older than 60 years, with a long history of dyspnea (difficulty breathing) to exert and nonproductive cough. These patients frequently present weight loss, due to the use of accessory muscles to breathe, while healthy individuals only use the diaphragm to produce ventilatory movements.

Emphysema is characterized by loss of pulmonary elasticity, destruction of the structures that support the alveolus and destruction of capillaries that supply blood to the alveolus. The result of all this is the collapse of the small airways during breathing, leading to a respiratory obstruction and retention of air in the lungs. All these disorders result in symptoms of dyspnea, initially to the effort although it becomes evolutionary and may even have dyspnea at rest. Weight loss, anxiety, edema, and fatigue usually accompany in many cases. A cough and wheezing are much less frequent than in chronic bronchitis.

Gastroesophageal Reflux is yet another complication of interstitial lung disease, which occurs in 66-87% of patients with IPF, although it is also postulated as a causal factor.

Bronchogenic Carcinoma, which occurs with a prevalence of 5 to 10%.


Interstitial lung diseases are a complex group of entities with an unknown cause that can turn into very life-threatening conditions such as an exacerbation of the symptomatology, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary emphysema, gastroesophageal reflux, and bronchogenic carcinoma. It is important to attend the doctor as soon as possible to avoid serious consequences.

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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 19, 2018

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