What is Interstitial Lung Disease?
Interstitial lung disease is a composition of various lung disorders.
The lungs have an anatomic structure which is called interstitium. It is a network of tissue that resembles lace. It extends to both lungs, supporting the alveoli—microscopic air sacs in the lungs. As tiny blood vessels travel the interstitium, it allows the blood and the air in the lungs to exchange gas.
Interstitial Lung Disease Causes
One thing that can cause interstitial lung disease is too much exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos. However, other causes do exist such as exposure to fungi, bacteria or viruses. Additionally, other irritants such as silica dust, grain dust from farming, coal dust, as well as other metal dust can cause the lung issue.
But aside from these mentioned sources, drugs such as amiodarone, nitrofurantoin, and bleomycin can result the disease.
So, if you ask who are at risk of getting the lung disease, based on the mentioned sources anyone can develop it. Starting from men up to women; even children or old people can catch it. But the most common individual who is prone to it, are those who have autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.
Types of Interstitial Lung Disease
Any source of the disease can thicken the interstitium due to scarring, inflammation, or edema. It forms can be either chronic or short-lived.
It has also various types such as the following:
- Asbestosis – Interstitial lung condition that is caused by asbestos exposure is called asbestosis.
- Acute Interstitial Pneumonitis – It is a sudden case of interstitial lung disease. It is also severe that it requires a life support
- Nonspecific Interstitial Pneumonitis – This type of interstitial lung disease commonly exists with the presence of autoimmune conditions such as scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis – By continuously inhaling irritants, such as mold and dust, interstitial lung disease is developed.
- Interstitial Pneumonia – The bacterium Mycoplasma pneumonia is the most common infection that touches the interstitium. However, other fungi, bacteria, or viruses may be the cause of the infection.
- Sarcoidosis – This characterized with having swollen lymph nodes. It will sometimes involve the eye, skin, heart, and nerve.
- Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia (COP) – If you are familiar with the normal pneumonia, this type of interstitial lung disease is just like it minus the infection. This is also referred to as bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP).
- Desquamative Interstitial Pneumonitis – If you are smoking, chances are you will develop desquamative interstitial pneumonitis. But this is just the partial cause of it.
- Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis – This form of interstitium scarring is identified as progressive and chronic, but the cause of it is still unknown among medical professionals.
What are the Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease?
The most common symptom that you can observe in a person with interstitial lung disease is being breathless. All individual who is affected with the lung disease experience shortness of breath. Over time, the mentioned symptom gets worse.
Nevertheless, other symptoms can be observed including weight loss and coughing. Coughing is usually dry.
How to Diagnose Interstitial Lung Disease?
The most common symptoms that make patients meet a doctor is coughing and breathlessness. Doctors use imaging test to examine a patient’s lung and detect what seems to be the problem.
- Chest X-ray – Chest x-ray is the most common imaging test to identify a lung condition. The machine uses ultraviolet rays to film the lungs of patients. If the examiner sees fine lines in the lungs, most probably the patient is suffering from interstitial lung disease.
- Computed Tomography (CT Scan) – CT scan is almost similar to chest x-ray. However, it takes images in many vantage points. Moreover, it can provide the image of the organs surrounding the lungs. CT scan has the greater ability to detect any existing interstitial lung disease because of this.
- High-Resolution CT Scan – By adjusting the setting of the CT scan, it can provide a better image of the interstitium. By doing this, it can increase the chance to detect lung disease.
- Pulmonary Function Testing – This method is done by breathing on a plastic tube. Usually, people with interstitial lung disease cannot achieve their lung capacity. Their ability to transfer oxygen from lungs to blood also decreases.
- Lung Biopsy – By getting a sample tissue from the lungs, medical experts can identify what type of interstitial lung disease a patient has. Getting a sample lung tissue can be performed by several methods such as bronchoscopy, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), and thoracotomy.
What are the Treatments for Interstitial Lung Disease?
There are multiple treatments available for interstitial lung disease. These treatments vary depending on the type and cause of the lung disease.
- Antibiotics – The drug is effective in treating most interstitial pneumonia. Any bacteria that causing the disease can be eliminated by consuming antibiotics such as levofloxacin and azithromycin.
- Corticosteroids – Inflammation is the primary enemy that corticosteroids attack. Normally, the body inflamed as a response of the immune system; but corticosteroids reduces the immune function, resulting in a reduction of inflammation in the lungs and the rest of the body.
- Azathioprine (Imuran) – Like corticosteroids, this drug has the ability to stop immune function. There are no findings that it can help improve interstitial lung disease, however, researchers propose that it can assist.
- N-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst) – This drug is an antioxidant. It usually partners with other medications to slow the lung function decline.
- Inhaled Oxygen – This technique is more effective for patients with low levels of oxygen in the blood. By inhaling oxygen the symptoms of interstitial lung disease can improve. Moreover, by regular oxygen use, the heart can be protected from low oxygen level damage.
- Lung Transplant – Severe cases of interstitial lung disease might require a lung transplant. By doing this, there is a more chance to improve the quality of their lives.
There are other forms of medications available to treat interstitial lung disease. However, these medications are considered controversial:
- Nintedanib (OFEV)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Pirfenidone (Exbriet)
According to studies, these medicines suppress the immune system, but they may be effectively used for interstitial lung issues. But a consumer should watch out for any side effects it may produce.