The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Is ILD the same as COPD?
Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is an umbrella term used to categorize over 100 different types of pulmonary disorders that affect the absorption of oxygen into the lungs. It includes a diverse collection of illnesses with a variety of causes, treatments and prognoses. Individuals who suffer from interstitial lung disease often have difficulty breathing and moving from place to place due to a constant feeling of shortness of breath. Disorders classified under interstitial lung disease are often characterized by scarring of the lung’s delicate tissues and a subsequent dry, pestering cough.
How is ILD Different than COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), like ILD, is an umbrella term that encompasses both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, COPD is what is known as an obstructive lung disease which means that it primarily affects the ability to both breathe in and expel air due to the tightening of your airways. In many patients, the lungs can not adequately expel the air that it takes in, this leads to residual air sitting in the lungs. In contrast, ILD is considered a restrictive lung disease versus COPD’s categorization as an obstructive lung disease. Restrictive lung diseases are marked by the inability to breathe properly due to scarring and lung damage. In the case of pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that is categorized beneath the ILD umbrella, the small air sacs of the lungs called alveoli are hardened and damaged due to damage from external particles. COPD is a disease that allows you to breathe, but due to inflammation and obstruction, not expel air well, while ILD is a disease that restricts your ability to breathe at all through scarring and damage to the lungs themselves.
Another major difference is what causes the diseases. COPD is primarily caused by smoking cigarettes over a long period of time. This is not to infer that you cannot get COPD if you don’t smoke. COPD can also be caused by pollution and a genetic disorder called Alpha-1-antitrypsin. However, the vast majority of COPD sufferers develop the disease due to smoking.
ILD is commonly idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. The ILD cases with known causes are typically linked to bronchiolar disorders, drug side-effects and environmental factors or is related to an autoimmune disorder that has already developed in the patient.
Treatment for COPD and ILD
Many of the treatment recommendations for both diseases are the same. Smoking cessation is always the first step in treating a lung disease. Once you’ve visited with a pulmonologist, you will likely get prescribed some medication to help your lung function, but note that ILD does not have a known cure. It is also important that you regularly exercise your lungs and moderate your diet to help slow the progression of the disease. With all of these things, you may still not be satisfied with your ability to live a normal life.
If you are interested in an alternative treatment for ILD, stem cell therapy may be an option. Autologous stem cells, or those taken from your own body, can be reintroduced to replace damaged cells in the lungs with healthier ones. If you or a loved one is interested in stem cell therapy, the Lung Institute can help. Contact us today or call (800) 729-3065 for a free consultation.