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Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is a term that broadly describes a diverse collection of more than 200 lung disorders. These diseases are classified together because they all affect (by scarring and causing inflammation) the interstitium, which is the tissue that surrounds the lung’s air sacs, blood vessels and airways. The scarring does not allow for the sacs to expand as much, making breathing very difficult.

Decreased oxygen intake can have consequences for the entire body. It’s not unusual for other medical conditions to arise while someone is dealing with an ILD. Some of these medical conditions can be life-threatening and include: pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the lungs, right-sided heart failure and respiratory failure.

Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease

Because ILD includes many disorders, types of ILDs are categorized based on the cause. These types of ILD include:

  • ILD Related to Another Health Disorder: Some people develop ILD as a result of having an autoimmune disease (the immune system harms the body). Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, lupus and sarcoidosis.
  • ILD Caused by Breathing in Harmful Substances: People who breathe harmful particles such as coal dust, asbestos, tobacco smoke or hairdressing chemicals may develop ILD.
  • Genetic ILD: A genetic ILD occurs when the disease is passed down among family members. These conditions include neurofibromatosis (a disease in which tumors grow on nerves) and Gaucher’s disease (marked by enlargement of internal organs, including the spleen and liver, and lesions on the bones).
  • Idiopathic ILD: Idiopathic means the cause is not known. Idiopathic ILD usually affects people over 60 years old.

Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease

When you have ILD, you can’t get enough oxygen into your blood. As a result, you feel short of breath, especially when you exercise or climb stairs. Eventually, you may find it hard to breathe, even at rest. A dry cough is another symptom.

Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease

To diagnose your condition, your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and ask about your risk factors, among others items. After that, your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests. Some of the diagnostic tests and procedures include:

Treatment of Interstitial Lung Disease

Scarring caused by an ILD can’t be undone, but treatment may be able to stop the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms. There are many possible treatment options for ILD, and the right plan for the patient will depend on the specific disease they are diagnosed with. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to improve lung function and teach patient’s self-management techniques.
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.


  • Corticosteroids will help slow the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Medications that will help slow the progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Medications that will help reduce stomach acid.

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