What is Interstitial Lung Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is interstitial lung disease? 

Interstitial lung disease describes many disorders, most of which cause progressive inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. The scarring associated with interstitial lung disease eventually affects your ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into your bloodstream. Interstitial lung disease can be caused by long-term exposure to hazardous materials, such as asbestos. Some types of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, also can cause interstitial lung disease. In some cases, however, the causes remain unknown.

How is interstitial lung disease diagnosed? 

People who have interstitial lung disease may have cough and trouble breathing, especially with exercise. Early on in the disease course, people may not have symptoms. Your doctor might detect the disease on a chest X-ray that is done for a different reason. Tests that your doctor orders to determine the cause for your interstitial lung disease can include blood tests, chest X-ray, CT scan of the chest, ECG (electrocardiogram), and pulmonary function tests (breathing tests). Other tests might be needed, such as an echocardiogram to assess the heart’s function, a bronchoscopy to look inside the lung and obtain fluid samples, or a lung biopsy to take a small lung piece of tissue and study it under a microscope. 

What is the treatment for interstitial lung disease? 

The treatment of interstitial lung disease depends on the underlying cause. For example, your doctor may recommend that you stop a medicine that might be causing the problem or prescribe you oxygen or steroids to reduce lung inflammation. 

Some other treatments can sometimes slow down lung damage. Many patients are also referred to pulmonary rehabilitation, an outpatient program that teaches people with lung diseases exercises and ways to help them breathe. In people with severe interstitial lung disease, lung transplantation may be recommended.

Do you think you have Interstitial Lung Disease? Call our Pulmonary Clinic at (978) 254-4983 to get scheduled as soon as possible. Click here to Contact Us. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.

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