Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a broad term referring to a group of pulmonary diseases that cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the lungs.

Fibrosis causes the lungs to become stiff, making it difficult to breathe and get oxygen into the bloodstream.

Anyone can get ILD. Risk factors can include genetics, certain types of medications and treatments, occupational exposure, connective tissue disorders or autoimmune diseases.

The most common symptoms are shortness of breath accompanied by a dry cough, a feeling of tightness in the chest and fatigue. See your doctor if you exhibit any of these symptoms.

Early diagnosis is key to preventing damage from ILD. By the time symptoms appear, lung damage may have already occurred. If left untreated, life-threatening complications can result such as high blood pressure, or heart or respiratory failure.

Diagnosis

If a doctor suspects that you may have ILD, they may order a pulmonary function test to evaluate total lung capacity. In more serious cases, they may perform a bronchoscopy to obtain tissue biopsies for further investigation.

Common Treatments for ILD

  • Oxygen Therapy
    When your lungs are unable to deliver oxygen to your tissues effectively, oxygen therapy may be prescribed. Oxygen is delivered either through tubes resting in the nose or through a face mask. Oxygen therapy can reduce shortness of breath and enable you to stay more active.
  • Medications
    There are a range of medications that help decrease inflammation in the airways to ease the work of breathing in the treatment of ILD. Controller medications are prescribed to be taken daily and can preempt the disease from reaching a state that would require a hospital visit.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation
    Pulmonary rehabilitation is a supervised program that includes exercise training and health education to ease breathing and improve your quality of life.
  • Lung Transplantation
    If ILD damages the lungs significantly and severely affects your quality of life, your physician may recommend a lung transplant.

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