Interstitial Lung Disease

ILD or Interstitial lung disease is a term that describes a large group of respiratory disorders. It is also known as diffuse parenchymal lung disease (DPLD). Most of these disorders cause progressive scarring (fibrosis) or inflammation of the interstitium. Interstitium is the tissue and surrounding space around the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs. When there is scarring of the interstitium, it causes stiffness of the lungs, and the air sacs cannot expand fully. This affects the ability to breathe, and as a result, less oxygen enters the bloodstream. ILD can affect other parts of the lungs, including the airways, lung lining, and blood vessels.


Interstitial lung disease can happen to anyone, irrespective of age and gender. Lung damage by interstitial lung disease is often progressive and irreversible, and there is no cure that can reverse lung damage completely. Therefore, the only treatment option is to relieve the symptoms, and improve quality of life. This would slow down the disease progression.


What causes interstitial lung disease?


There are several causes of interstitial lung disease. One such cause is long-term exposure to hazardous materials like asbestos fibres, coal dust, tobacco smoke, etc. Some autoimmune diseases, for example, rheumatoid arthritis or sarcoidosis, can also cause interstitial lung disease. In addition, several other factors can increase the risk or cause this condition, such as genetics, certain medications, or medical treatments, including radiation or chemotherapy. Interstitial lung disease may also occur due to an injury to the lungs that triggers an abnormal healing response. However, in some cases, the causes remain unknown. 


What are some of the signs and symptoms of interstitial lung disease?


Signs and symptoms of ILD may vary depending on the underlying cause. When a person has interstitial lung disease, he/she does not get sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream. As a result, the person may experience the following symptoms:


  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in breathing, even at rest.
  • Dry cough
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and occasionally weight loss


Symptoms often get worse with time. In most cases, lung damage has already been done by the time the symptoms appear. Therefore it is crucial to get medical help immediately. Untreated ILD cases can lead to life-threatening complications such as high blood pressure, heart or respiratory failure.

Common risk factors associated with Interstitial lung disease

1. Age: Interstitial lung disease is more common in people with older age. Sometimes it can be seen in infants and children.


2. Exposure to environmental toxins: Mining, farming, or construction sites are filled with toxic pollutants, and exposure to these can damage the lungs and increase the risk of ILD.


3. Smoking: People having a history of smoking and active smokers may worsen the condition of ILD.


4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Uncontrolled acid reflux or indigestion is also a risk factor for interstitial lung disease.


5. Radiation and chemotherapy: Having radiation therapy for the chest or using some kind of chemotherapy medications may make the person prone to interstitial lung disease. 


Diagnosis of interstitial lung disease


Apart from physical examination and medical history, the doctor may also recommend the following tests and scans:



Healthy tips to reduce the risk of interstitial lung disease:


  • Quit smoking as smoking damages the lungs
  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
  • Be physically active
  • Get vaccination of flu, pneumonia, and other infections. 



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