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  • Writer's picturechetanya Kagzi

What is Interstitial Lung Disease and How to Diagnose It?

Updated: Jun 14


Interstial lung Disease and How to Diagonese it

In today’s hustle and bustle of daily life, we often neglect our health. The coronavirus phase was the time that told people that their health was their biggest wealth, but once the situation got normal, people once again neglected their health in this fast-paced life. When a person is not health-conscious, there are various factors, like bad food habits, pollution, and a bad lifestyle, that make them the victims of big and chronic diseases, and interstitial lung disease is one of them. 


The new term for you? Let’s explore this further as this blog explores this disease from A to Z. As oxygen concentrators and BiPAP can help you breathe by pushing more air into your lungs, we will also explore the additional treatments for this illness through this blog. 


Understanding Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

Interstitial Lung Disease is not a single disease. It is a collective form of various disorders, approximately 200 in number, that affect your interstitium, the tissue that supports the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, making it hard for the lungs to transport oxygen to various parts of the body. 


Common Symptoms of ILD


Common Symptoms Of ILD


Becoming aware of the common symptoms of any disease or illness is important to diagnose it in the early phases and prevent it from becoming a major problem for you, which will make the treatment much easier. 


Following are some major types of symptoms of ILD: 


  • Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea): Shortness of breath is one of the earliest and most common signs of ILD. It can start gradually and worsen over time, so it is essential to pay attention to it if you face difficulty breathing and it persists for a long time. If you experience shortness of breath, you can take the help of an oxygen concentrator or a BiPAP. 

  • Dry Cough: When a dry cough makes it difficult for you to do any physical activity or lie down, pay attention to it. 

  • Fatigue: If fatigue is interrupting your daily activities, it can be a major sign of ILD. 

  • Weakness: As oxygen levels are reduced in your body, you can feel muscle weakness. 

  • Clubbing of Fingers and Toes: In some instances, as there is a chronic low oxygen level in your body, it causes your fingertips and toes to become enlarged and rounded, which is known as clubbing. 

  • Chest Tightness or Discomfort: Some people with ILD may experience chest discomfort or a feeling of tightness.

  • Unintentional Weight Loss: You may witness sudden weight loss as your breathing difficulties decrease your appetite and increase energy expenditure. 

  • Wheezing: Some individuals can also experience wheezing, a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing. 

  • Finger Cyanosis: Bluish discolouration of the fingertips due to decreased oxygen levels in the blood.


What Happens When You Have Interstitial Lung Disease?

In Interstitial Lung Disease, there is inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) of the lung tissue between the air sacs. This scarring makes the lungs stiffen, making it difficult for them to expand properly and for oxygen to transfer into the bloodstream. 


How Can One Diagnose Interstitial Lung Disease?

As mentioned earlier, there are around 200 disorders that cause Interstitial Lung Disease collectively, and thus, diagnosing this chronic illness can be a challenge as there can be a large number of disorders that are major symptoms of this chronic illness. Furthermore, medications and family backgrounds are some major risk factors. 


Which treatments are prescribed for Interstitial Lung Disease?


Treatments For Interstitial Lung Disease

There are various types of ILD and the treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. 


However, the following are some of the common treatment methods that are approached for ILD:  


  • Corticosteroids: When the illness is caused by an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma, this medication is used to reduce inflammation in the lungs and treat ILD. 

  • Immunosuppressive drugs: Some drugs like azathioprine, mycophenolate, or cyclophosphamide are used to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation in cases where ILD is associated with autoimmune diseases.

  • Oxygen therapy: As there is a major shortage of oxygen in the body in Interstitial Lung Disease, supplementing oxygen through an oxygen concentrator is one of the most notable treatments for this illness that addresses the low levels of oxygen in the blood. Better oxygenation can make you relax during breathing and reduce strain on the heart. 

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: This is a comprehensive program that includes various exercise training, education, and breathing techniques that help in improving lung function, increasing endurance, and enhancing the quality of life for people with ILD.


  • Antifibrotic medications: For certain types of ILD, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), medications like pirfenidone or nintedanib may be prescribed to slow the progression of fibrosis and preserve lung function.


Complications and risk factors

From medication to family history, there are certain risk factors that can make the situation worse for patients with ILD. The following are some of them: 


  • Genetics: The most common type of ILD, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is caused by a gene called MUCRB. 

  • Smoking: Smoking increases your risk of ILD. 

  • Family History: As mentioned above, some types of ILD are heretical, so if you have a family history of lung disease, you can become a victim of it. 

  • Workplace and living conditions: While today’s environment is filled with pollution no matter where you go, extreme exposure to molds, dust, and other irritants damages your lungs over time, making them more vulnerable to lung diseases. 


What queries should I put to my healthcare professional?


If you suspect that you are at risk of Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), there are a number of questions you should ask your healthcare professionals: 


Diagnosis and Understanding: 

  • What is interstitial lung disease (ILD), and what are its causes?

  • How is ILD diagnosed? What tests are involved?

  • Can you explain the specific type of ILD I have been diagnosed with?

  • What are the potential complications or risks associated with ILD?


Treatment Options:

  • What treatment options are available for managing ILD?

  • Are there medications that can help slow down the progression of ILD?

  • Are there any home remedies or lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms?

  • What are the possible side effects of the recommended treatments?


Prognosis and Disease Progression:

  • What is the typical prognosis for someone with ILD?

  • How does ILD typically progress over time?

  • Are there any factors that could affect the progression of my ILD?

  • What signs or symptoms should I be aware of that might indicate a worsening of the condition?


Managing Symptoms:

  • What symptoms should I expect to experience with ILD, and how can I manage them?

  • Are there any breathing exercises or pulmonary rehabilitation programs that could help improve my lung function?

  • Are there any specific dietary recommendations that could benefit me?


Monitoring and Follow-Up:


How often should I have follow-up appointments to monitor my ILD?

What tests or measurements will be used to monitor the progression of my ILD?

Are there any warning signs that should prompt me to seek medical attention between appointments?


Living with ILD:

  • How might ILD affect my daily life, including activities and work?

  • Are there any support groups or resources available for people living with ILD?

  • Are there any specific precautions I should take to protect my lungs from further damage?


Medication and Vaccinations:

  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid due to potential interactions with my ILD medications?

  • Should I receive any vaccinations to prevent respiratory infections or complications?


Referrals and Additional Support:

  • Are there any specialists for healthcare professionals I should consider consulting for further evaluation or management of my ILD?

  • Can you recommend any resources or organizations that provide support for individuals with ILD?


Conclusion

As this major illness is the collective effect of 200 disorders, there are various types of Interstitial Lung Diseases. As this is a major illness situation, taking care of the above symptoms and acknowledging them is the first step towards its prevention. Take the help of an oxygen concentrator or a BiPAP machine

As we can not have control over family background and genes, some causes, like smoking, can be prevented by reducing its use. 


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