The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Because there are so many varieties of interstitial lung disease, it can be challenging to feel like you have all of the information you need for your specific type. Understanding interstitial lung disease progression is important, so you can continue to be proactive in your healthcare. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a broad group of lung diseases that make up more than 200 types of pulmonary disorders. ILD affects the absorption of oxygen into the lungs. Typically, the most common characteristic of ILD is scarring of the lung’s delicate tissues. For example, pulmonary fibrosis and pneumoconiosis are both types of interstitial lung disease. ILD affects everyone differently and at different rates, so here’s what you need to know about interstitial lung disease progression.
What are the interstitial lung disease symptoms?
Because interstitial lung disease is comprised of a variety of disorders, some symptoms may vary based on individual conditions. However, there are some common symptoms that are shared by all interstitial lung diseases and can include:
- Weight loss
- Acute pneumonia
- Shortness of breath
- Dry, pestering cough
Typically, these symptoms develop and progress gradually over the course of many months or years. People with ILD usually experience shortness of breath after physical activity before they have other symptoms. However, symptoms will progressively worsen over time. Because of the gradual onset of interstitial lung diseases, many people don’t seek treatment or help for their symptoms until ILD symptoms become debilitating. While interstitial lung disease is progressive and will worsen over time, early diagnosis and treatment can help people live the best life possible.
What are the causes of interstitial lung disease?
Interstitial lung disease is a category of chronic lung conditions that affect the air sacs of the lungs. Because it’s a progressive condition, interstitial lung disease progression will continue even with treatment. ILD can either be idiopathic (or without a known cause) or caused by a variety of factors. The most common form of idiopathic interstitial lung disease is pulmonary fibrosis. However, ILD can be caused by environmental factors, other disorders and certain medications.
ILD can be caused by bronchiolar disorders, such as bronchiolitis. It can also be caused by medications like cytotoxins, antiarrhythmics, antibiotics, biologics and statins, such as nitrofurantoin, sulfonamides, bleomycin, amiodarone, methotrexate, gold, infliximab and entanercept.
Certain autoimmune disorders can also cause interstitial lung disease because of the increased amount of inflammation in the whole body and include:
- Mixed connective tissue disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Environmental factors, sometimes referred to as occupational lung disease, can also cause ILD, such as prolonged exposure to asbestos, coal dust, cotton dust, silica dust, cigarette smoke and radiation therapy to the chest.
How is interstitial lung disease diagnosed?
To determine if you have ILD or another chronic lung disease, it’s important to see you doctor and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may then recommend further testing, which could include a chest x-ray, blood tests, a CT scan, cardiopulmonary exercise testing, pulmonary function tests, a bronchoscopy or a minimally invasive biopsy.
What you can do about interstitial lung disease progression
Simply put, interstitial lung disease is a progressive condition, meaning it will worsen over time. However, there are treatment options available to help people live the best life possible. The key is to receive a diagnosis and start your treatment plan as soon as possible. Interstitial lung disease treatments are aimed at improving symptoms and slowing interstitial lung disease progression.
Unfortunately, the lung scarring that occurs with interstitial lung disease is often irreversible. Many doctors may prescribe medications and inhalers to reduce inflammation as well as medications to slow the interstitial lung disease progression. Some doctors may recommend oxygen therapy to help you receive adequate amounts of oxygen, and for some people, doctors may even recommend a lung transplant.
Alternative treatments are also available for people with ILD. For some people with ILD, stem cell therapy has helped them regain their quality of life and breathe easier. In fact, many patients are able to lead a more active lifestyle. If you or a loved one has interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumoconiosis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.