Interstitial lung disease, known as ILD, refers to a group of disorders that negatively affect lung tissue, generally by causing scarring. Like other lung conditions, ILD can have a severe negative impact on your quality of life by inhibiting your ability to breathe and transfer oxygen to your bloodstream. Whether you have been diagnosed with ILD and want to learn more, or you are researching potential causes of your symptoms, educating yourself as a patient is an important first step in the treatment journey.
Conditions Under the ILD Umbrella
Instead of being one condition, interstitial lung disease is a general term for a group of disorders that cause scarring, or fibrosis, to the interstitium of the lungs. The interstitium are the tissues surrounding the air sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged to and from the bloodstream.
Specific conditions that are diagnosed as ILD by doctors include:
- Sarcoidosis — This disorder causes the development of nodules in organs throughout the body, but most often the lungs.
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — The progressive development of scar tissue on the lungs.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis — Inflammation of the lungs due to a hypersensitivity to reactive particles like bacteria or fungi.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and certain forms of cancer can also be considered at risk for the development of ILD.
Major Causes of ILD
ILD causes can include inhaled substances, reactions to drugs, inflammation related to an autoimmune disease, infection and even unknown causes. A high number of ILD cases are smoking related, as the irritants contained in cigarette smoke can be very harmful to your interstitial lung tissue.
Other risk factors for the development of ILD include:
- Occupational chemicals and toxins, such as asbestos
- Severe acid reflux
- Radiation and chemotherapy
- Exposure to mold or animal droppings
While these and other risk factors can provoke a normal healing response in some, ILD patients produce an abnormal amount of scar tissue that inhibits the normal functioning of the lungs.
Primary ILD Symptoms
One of the earliest warning signs of ILD is persistent shortness of breath, particularly after exertion or exercise. Another common symptom is the presence of a dry cough. This is in contrast to conditions like bronchitis that cause a productive cough due to the presence of mucus. ILD can also result in high blood pressure, and in the most serious cases, respiratory failure.
It is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment at the first sign of any symptoms. ILD is not a reversible condition, but if lung damage is already present, it is absolutely critical to discover the source of the scarring. By being proactive with diagnosis and treatment early on, it is possible to manage this condition and potentially slow down its development.
To diagnose the symptoms of lung conditions like ILD, a physician will typically follow these steps:
- Review your medical history
- Ask questions about your lifestyle and specific symptoms
- Listen to your breathing through a stethoscope
- Order testing and imagery, including X-ray, CT scan, bloodwork, pulmonary function tests and lung tissue analysis
If a form of ILD is determined to be the underlying cause of your symptoms, you can then begin to develop a treatment plan based on your specific needs.
Standard Treatment Options for ILD
Traditionally, the primary treatment goals of ILD are to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Different types of treatment include medication, such as corticosteroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, supplemental oxygen therapy and nutritional counseling. In some cases, lung transplant surgery may be required if there is severe progressive tissue scarring.
Increasingly, patients with ILD are also exploring the possibilities offered from regenerative treatments, such as the options we provide at Lung Health Institute. We are the world-recognized leader in regenerative medicine for the treatment of a wide range of lung conditions. We set ourselves apart by taking a comprehensive and holistic approach to helping people find the relief they deserve. Our methods for helping patients in their journey toward restoring lung function include:
- Anti-Inflammatory Initiative™ (AI²™) — Our unique nutrition and lifestyle plans are custom designed to help you reduce inflammation and relieve the symptoms of lung disorders like ILD.
- Cellular therapy — We use your body’s own blood cells to assist in restoring natural lung function and reducing inflammation to help you get back to a better quality of life.
Take the next step to find relief. Contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.