The term Interstitial Lung Disease(ILD) is a general name for a group of lung diseases.
Interstitial Lung Disease is a group of disorders that result in the scarring of the tissues in the lungs. When the lung tissues become scarred, it leads to breathing difficulties—the inability to breathe typically causes a shortage of oxygen in the blood.
Not only does the lung tissue get scarred, but it also leads to the destruction of the lung capillaries and the air sacs.
Classification of Interstitial Lung Disease And Their Causes
As mentioned earlier, Interstitial Lung Disease is a large group of lung diseases. Therefore, the various examples of the ILD are being classified according to their causes
Toxic pollutants from the air and the environment might lead to lung infections. These infections can damage the lungs permanently.
Examples of interstitial lung diseases caused by infection are pneumonia, tuberculosis, pneumoconiosis, etc.
2. Drug Toxicity
The usage of some drugs can lead to complications in the lungs. For example, the consistent use of antibiotics, statins, heart medications, nitrofurantoin, cancer medications, etc., can lead to lung tissue fibrosis. Radiation exposure can also lead to interstitial lung diseases. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are prone to interstitial lung diseases over time.
Idiopathic Interstitial Lung diseases are those ILD without identifiable causes. A lot of exciting lung diseases have unknown causes and are further divided into two:
● Acute: They occur suddenly and last for days to months. Although they show symptoms, they are usually severe. Examples are Acute Interstitial Pneumonia, Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia.
● Chronic: These ILDs rarely show symptoms on time. By the time the symptoms surface, the fibrosis would have eaten so deep. They are mostly irreversible.
Other idiopathic interstitial lung disease examples are Lymphoid Interstitial Pneumonia, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, etc.
4. Genetically caused ILD
Interstitial Lung Disease could run in the family’s genetic history. They could be passed down from generation to generation. An example is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
How Is Interstitial Lung Disease Diagnosed?
- CT Scan
It is a more advanced form of X-rays. Computed Tomography scans are used to get computerized pictorial images of the chest. These CT scan results help to see and detect specific abnormalities to evaluate possible lung diseases. Problems such as lung infections, scarring, lung tumors, pulmonary nodules, tissue blockage, etc., can be detected quickly and early enough.
Bronchoscopy involves using a bronchoscope, a device meant for looking into the insides of the lungs and the airways. This is done to diagnose lung problems. In addition, tests may be carried out on retrieved samples from the airways. The procedure can also be used in treating some of these lung problems.
Spirometry is a diagnostic test procedure for breathing difficulties and lung problems. The spirometer evaluates how well the lungs work and how much air is inhaled or exhaled. In addition, it checks if the airflow is obstructed, how severe lung disease or infection is and how much progress is made after diagnosis and treatment.
Other ways to diagnose ILDs could be a chest X-ray, lung biopsy, Peak flow monitoring, etc.
Any complaints of cold breathing difficulties should be taken to the hospital. The medical expert will then refer the patients with such complaints about a general test before the diagnosis is made.
Signs And Symptoms Of Interstitial Lung Disease
There are many symptoms of ILD. However, they are primarily standard systems that the infected person could evade. Examples of the systems are extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, difficulty while breathing, cough, weight loss, dry cough, or fever.
The symptoms are likely to surface a long time after the presence of the disease. Therefore, any uncomfortable breathing or coughing should be reported to the nearest health center for diagnosis.
Possible Complications Of Having ILD
Interstitial Lung Diseases are most severe and can lead to many life-threatening complications.
- Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure affecting the right side of the heart. It also affects the arteries in the lungs. The walls of the arteries become stiff and thick, thereby blocking blood flow into them. Chronic lung diseases cause pulmonary hypertension, and it occurs in stages.
2. Respiratory Failure
Respiratory failure results as a cause of little or no oxygen in the bloodstream. The lungs work by taking in oxygen and passing it to the blood flowing to other organs. In cases where lung diseases are untreated and worsen, the lungs become damaged. Lung damage leads to an oxygen shortage that increases pressure in the articles and ventricles. The result is heart failure.
3. Cor pulmonale
Cor pulmonale is known as right-sided heart failure.
Cor pulmonale occurs in progressive stages and is primarily severe. It is caused when a lung disorder alters the normal function of the right ventricle. As a result, the right ventricle has to overwork by extra pumping so blood can flow through obstructed arteries.
Chronic lung diseases lead to the complications listed above. These complications may result in heart failure or high blood pressure, which later causes death. In addition, they are usually hard to treat after becoming severe.
Methods Of Preventing Interstitial Lung Disease
Lung diseases may be prevented if proper care is taken by living a healthy life. To maintain appropriate care of the lungs, the following methods could be followed:
- Breathing Exercises
Body exercises work to keep the body in shape; they are also beneficial to the lungs. Exercises deliver more oxygen to the lungs and make the heart beat faster. Aerobic exercises help to release carbon dioxide and inhale more oxygen. Also, following a healthy diet reduces the rate of lung infections. Taking plenty of water, fruits and vegetables is advisable.
2. Avoiding Air Pollutants
While this is sometimes hard due to environmental factors, it is advisable to take precautions. For example, limiting exposure to dust, smoke, machine exhausts, and construction waste reduces possible lung damage. In addition, it is better to stay in a well-ventilated area void of toxic substances harmful to the lungs.
3. No Smoking
Smoking increases lung cancer risks. Therefore, smoking should be avoided or outrightly stopped. Smokers are more prone to lung diseases and infections. The toxic substances that come with smoking lead to breathing difficulties and eventually damage the lungs.
What are the treatment options?
There is no cure for interstitial lung disease. However, some treatments are introduced to improve the diseases.
- Oxygen Therapy
Introducing oxygen helps to improve breathing difficulties. The amount of oxygen in the blood is balanced and no longer low. As a result, breathing becomes more accessible, reducing blood pressure that must have increased due to lung disorders. It could be used temporarily or continuously.
Drugs that reduce the number of stomach acids affecting interstitial lung disease patients are used. Corticosteroid medications and drugs that decrease the progression rate of the disease are also administered to the affected patients.
3. Pulmonary Rehabilitation
These programs focus on healthy living patterns for interstitial lung disease patients. The program involves breathing exercises, healthy diets, and counseling.
4. Lung Transplantation
Worst cases of interstitial lung diseases do not improve even with medications. However, in this case, the lungs could be replaced with a healthy one through surgery.
Interstitial Lung Disease is a large group of lung diseases that leads to lung tissue fibrosis. They are caused by toxins, drug complications, or unknown causes. Lung diseases can be detected through CT scans, blood tests, chest X-rays, to mention a few. Presently, ILD is not treatable but can be prevented and managed.