Interstitial lung disease, or ILD, includes more than 100 chronic lung disorders. These diseases are not cancer and are not caused by an infection.
Interstitial lung diseases are named after the tissue between the air sacs of the lungs called the interstitium. In these diseases the interstitium is affected by scarring (fibrosis).
The symptoms and course of these diseases may vary from person to person, but the common link between the many forms of ILD is that they all begin with an inflammation.
Most ILDs are diagnosed as:
Other, less common types of ILD are:
In ILD, the lung is affected in 3 ways:
Fibrosis leads to permanent loss of your lung tissue's ability to carry oxygen. The air sacs, as well as the lung tissue around the air sacs and the lung capillaries, are destroyed by the formation of scar tissue.
The diseases may run a gradual course or a rapid course. People with ILD may notice variation in symptoms, from very mild to moderate to very severe. The condition may stay the same for a long time or it may change quickly. The course of ILDs is unpredictable. If they progress, the lung tissue thickens and becomes stiff. Breathing becomes more difficult.
The cause of interstitial lung disease (ILD) is not known. Major contributing factors are smoking and inhaling environmental or occupational pollutants, such as inorganic or organic dusts.
Other contributing factors include:
The following are the most common symptoms for interstitial lung diseases. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of interstitial lung diseases may resemble other lung conditions or medical problems. Consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, the health care provider may also request the following tests:
These tests help to measure the lungs' ability to move air into and out of the lungs. The tests are usually done with machines into which you breathe, and may include the following:
A spirometer is a device used to assess lung function. Spirometry, the evaluation of lung function with a spirometer, is one of the simplest, most common PFTs and may be used for any or all of the following:
This device is used to measure the how fast you can blow air out of the lungs. ILD-related changes can cause the large airways in the lungs to slowly narrow. This will slow the speed of air leaving the lungs and can be measured by a PFM. This measurement is very important in evaluating how well or how poorly the disease is being controlled.
This test takes pictures of internal tissues, bones, and organs.
Arterial blood gas may be done to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. Other blood tests may be used to look for possible infections.
An imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce sharp, detailed horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. HRCT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays.
This is direct exam of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi) using a flexible tube called a bronchoscope. Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, take out samples of tissue or fluid, and help remove a foreign body. Bronchoscopy may include a biopsy or bronchoalveolar lavage.
Removing cells from the lower respiratory tract to help identify inflammation and exclude certain causes.
Removing a small piece of tissue from the lung so it can be examined under a microscope.
There is no cure for interstitial lung disease (ILD). Treatments are aimed at preventing more lung scarring, managing symptoms, and helping you stay active and healthy. Treatment can't fix lung scarring that has already occurred.
Treatments may include:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider: