We all need clean, healthy air to breathe. However, the air isn’t always as clean as it should be. Often, air contains particles that can irritate and inflame the delicate tissues in our lungs. This inflammation can even occur due to certain medications and treatments that are supposed to help us. Everyone is exposed to some amount of material that can cause damage to the lungs — from dust to chemical fumes to first- or second-hand smoke. But in most cases, we are able to recover from it.
Normally, the body repairs damage to the lungs by generating new tissue, but in some cases, people can actually develop excess tissue that leads to additional damage and scarring in the lungs. This is what happens when a patient has interstitial lung disease — or ILD. ILD refers to scarring of the interstitium of the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, coughing and other complications.
What is the Interstitium?
When we breathe in, the oxygenated air travels through a series of tubes that split off, becoming smaller and smaller until they reach tiny air sacs, called alveoli, that actually transfer the oxygen into our bloodstream. The alveoli are supported by a framework of delicate tissue, which is called the interstitium.
Damage and scarring to the interstitium is the primary indicator of ILD, which is where the condition draws its name from. If excessive scar tissue develops in this delicate space, it can stiffen the lungs and severely affect your ability to breathe.
ILD Conditions and Risk Factors
ILD is actually an umbrella term encompassing many conditions that result in scarring of lung tissue. These conditions include idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonitis and sarcoidosis. While the specific causes and symptoms of these individual conditions can vary, doctors have identified several risk factors that are associated with people who develop ILD, such as:
- Age — Although children and infants can develop ILD, it is far more likely to affect older adults.
- Exposure to workplace pollutants — Chemicals and substances ranging from asbestos to bird droppings can inflame the lungs and eventually lead to scarring.
- Smoking cigarettes — Exposure to tobacco smoke can cause some forms of ILD and can also exacerbate the condition even if it wasn’t the direct cause.
- Certain medications — People undergoing chemotherapy and other forms of treatment can be at a higher risk for developing ILD.
Managing and Relieving ILD
Upon diagnosis of ILD, doctors can recommend a course of treatments to help manage symptoms and potentially slow down the progression of the disorder. Patients should quit smoking, if needed, and take any steps they can to limit exposure to chemicals and other airborne irritants. Medication, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and living a healthy lifestyle are also common recommendations to help patients find relief.
At Lung Health Institute, we offer patients regenerative treatments that are designed to help restore lung function, including our cellular therapy. Another option is a lifestyle and nutrition plan through our Anti-Inflammatory Initiative™ (AI²™). With all of our treatment options, we’re passionate about helping our patients get back to the lifestyle they deserve.
Take the next step to find relief. Contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.