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Interstitial Lung Diseases – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Interstitial Lung Diseases – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILD) is a group of lung diseases which affect the interstitium(the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lungs). When you have ILD this interstitium thickens & scarred affecting free diffusion of oxygen from air sac into the blood.

Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILD)

How Do You Identify A Interstitial Lung Disease

The symptoms of ILD are same as other lung disorders but their presentation is subtle hence the diagnosis is often missed till advanced stages.

Symptoms of interstitial lung disease

When you have interstitial lung disease, 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 which often persists for weeks to months; symptoms often get worse over time.

See your doctor if you have trouble breathing. After a diagnosis, you can start treatments to manage the inflammation and scarring.

Causes of interstitial lung disease

Many times, doctors can’t find the cause of interstitial lung disease. In these cases, the condition is called idiopathic interstitial lung disease.

Other causes of interstitial lung disease include medical conditions, use of some drugs, or exposure to toxic substances that damage your lungs. These causes of interstitial lung disease fall into three main categories:

Autoimmune diseases

Your body’s immune system attacks and damages the lungs and other organs in these conditions:

  • Dermatomyositis: an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and skin rash.
  • Lupus: a condition in which the immune system attacks many types of tissue, including the skin, joints, and other organs.
  • Mixed connective tissue disease: a condition that has symptoms of several connective tissue diseases, including polymyositis, lupus, and scleroderma.
  • Polymyositis: a condition that causes inflammation of the muscles.
  • Vasculitis: inflammation and damage to blood vessels in the body.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, lungs, and other organs.
  • Scleroderma: a group of diseases that cause the skin and connective tissue to thicken and tighten.
  • Sjögren syndrome: a condition that causes joint pain, dry eyes, and dry mouth.

Exposure to toxic substances

Exposure to the following substances at work or in the environment can cause lung scarring as well:

  • Animal proteins, such as from birds
  • Asbestos fibers
  • Coal dust
  • Grain dust
  • Mould
  • Silica dust
  • Tobacco smoke

Medication and drugs

In people who are susceptible, all of these drugs can damage the lungs:

  • Antibiotics such as nitrofurantoin (Macrobid, Macrodantin) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
  • Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, etanercept (Enbrel), and infliximab (Remicade)
  • Chemotherapy drugs such as azathioprine (Imuran), bleomycin, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate (Trexall), and vinblastine
  • Heart medications such as amiodarone (Cordarone, Nexterone, Pacerone)
  • Drugs such as heroin and its treatment, methadon

How Is Interstitial Lung Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Diseases

A doctor performs various tests to determine the condition of your interstitium. The interstitium is generally so thin that it cannot be detected in a simple chest x-ray . More developed imaging techniques like high-resolution CT scan [HRCT] chest are used to detect the extent of the advancement of the disease.

The functioning condition of your lungs can be tested through a pulmonary function test where you have to perform some breathing activities and an expert will take the measure of those.

Biopsy of the lung can also be done to obtain a very detailed report.


How Is Interstitial Lung Disease Treated?

Treatments can’t reverse lung damage, but they can slow disease progression and help you breathe more easily. If exposure to a toxic material or drug caused your interstitial lung disease, avoid that substance.

Oxygen Therapy:

  • Supplemental oxygen is currently recommended in the international guidelines for treatment, although no studies have proven its benefit. Individuals report feeling less breathless with its use.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehabilitation includes a series of exercises, practices, breathing techniques, dietary habit etc. which would help the patient manage his condition and lead an easier life. It also forms a support group for suffering patients.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as the steroid prednisone, can reduce swelling in the lungs.
  • Immune-suppressing drugs, such as azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), may help stop the immune system attacks that damage the lungs.
  • Antifibrotic drugs such as pirfenidone (Esbriet) and nintedanib (Ovef) may prevent further scarring in the lungs. These drugs are both approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • If your condition is severe and other treatments don’t help, the last resort is to have a lung transplant. However, a transplant is not a cure. Typically, this surgery is recommended if you’re younger than 65 years, but in some cases you can be older. You can’t have other major health conditions, such as cancer, HIV, hepatitis B or C, or heart, kidney, or liver failure.


    While you’re undergoing treatment, here are a few things you can do to stay healthy:

    • Stop smoking. Smoking can damage your lungs even more.
    • Eat a well-balanced diet. Getting enough nutrients and calories is important, especially because this disease can make you lose weight.
    • Exercise. Using oxygen can help you stay active.
    • Get your vaccines for pneumonia, and flu. These infections can worsen your lung function.

Interstitial Lung Disease is much better managed when you start treatment early. So, if you experience any discomfort in breathing, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

About the Doctor:

 Dr Laxma Babu - Consultant Pulmonologist

Dr Laxma Babu is our Consultant Pulmonologist, Interventions & Sleep Medicine. With his training in rigid Bronchoscopy from Aix Marseille Universite, France and specialization in Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS), cryo technique from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, there’s no doubt in the fact that he is one of the most sought-after pulmonologists in the city. To add to that, he also has training in sleep medicine from the International Institute of Sleep Sciences, Mumbai. He also has been trained in Flexi-rigid & Rigid Thoracoscopy. He takes a special interest in interventional pulmonology, pleural diseases and asthma.

About the Hospital:

A Multi Super Speciality Institution, 500 bedded Sunshine Hospitals (Paradise Circle, Secunderabad) is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr. AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopedic Doctor) and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man. Sunshine has now become one of the best hospitals for many treatments including Orthopedic, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Trauma and Neurology.

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