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Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease describes a large group of disorders characterized by inflammation and scarring. The scarring, called pulmonary fibrosis, leads to permanent loss of your lung tissue’s ability to carry oxygen. Once lung scarring occurs, it is generally irreversible. However, treatment may help slow the damage.

Types of Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease refers to a group of about 100 chronic lung disorders. The common link between the many forms is that they all begin with inflammation. Types of interstitial lung disease include:

  • Interstitial pneumonia
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis 
  • Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP) 
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP)
  • Acute interstitial pneumonitis
  • Desquamative interstitial pneumonitis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Asbestosis

Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease

People with most forms of interstitial lung disease experience shortness of breath and a dry cough. Other symptoms may include whole-body fatigue or an inability to exercise, as well as deformity of nails and weight loss.

Cause of Interstitial Lung Disease

While the cause of interstitial lung disease is not well known, major contributing factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Certain drugs or medicines
  • Long-term exposure to hazardous materials, such as asbestos or coal dust
  • Autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Family history
  • Radiation treatment 

Interstitial Lung Disease Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of interstitial lung disease and its cause. In order to develop the right care plan for you, Summa Health pulmonary experts work within a multidisciplinary team that includes thoracic surgeons, radiologists and pathologists. A variety of comprehensive testing may be necessary, such as: 

  • Lab tests to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. Other blood tests may be used to look for possible infections or detect proteins, antibodies and other markers of autoimmune diseases or inflammatory responses to environmental exposure.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans use a computer to combine X-ray images taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of internal structures. Often the first step in the diagnosis of interstitial lung disease, CT scans can help determine the extent of lung damage caused by interstitial lung disease.
  • Echocardiograms use sound waves to produce still images and videos of the heart's structures and functioning. They can evaluate the amount of pressure occurring in the right side of your heart.
  • Spirometry, a common pulmonary function test, checks lung function. It helps determine how well the lungs receive, hold and move air.
  • Oximetry tests use a small finger device to measure the oxygen saturation in the blood. It monitors the course and severity of lung disease.
  • Lung biopsies remove a small piece of tissue from the lung, so it can be checked under a microscope.

Potential treatments include medications, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.

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