Interstitial Lung Disease Overview
Interstitial Lung Disease can describe a variety of different disorders, but most of them have to do with the scarring of lung tissue. When this occurs, you are not able to breathe well and you are also not able to receive enough oxygen into your bloodstream. The cause of this is the long-term exposure to hazardous materials or an autoimmune disease. Symptoms are irreversible and treatment is used to slow down the damage of interstitial lung disease.
Interstitial Lung Disease Symptoms
Interstitial Lung Disease has two common symptoms including a dry cough and shortness of breath. By the time that you see these symptoms, then the lung damage has already occurred and is irreversible. You will want to see your pulmonologist at the first sign of these symptoms. If you are able to get an early diagnosis and treatment, then you will be able to feel better for longer.
Interstitial Lung Disease Causes
Interstitial Lung Disease occurs when your lungs are not able to heal properly from an injury to the lungs. Typically, your body will trigger healing and will repair the right amount of lung tissue. But in this instance, the tissue that your body is replacing is thick and scarred, which will make it more difficult to breathe. When you are not able to breathe properly, then you will not get the proper amount of oxygen into your body either. Interstitial Lung Disease can be caused from airborne toxins at work, drugs, medical treatments, and sometimes the cause is completely unknown.
Some common toxins at work that cause Interstitial Lung Disease are: silica dust, indoor hot tubs, radiation treatments, asbestosis, grain dust, or animal droppings. Radiation treatments may be from the treatment of lung or breast cancer.
There are also a variety of drugs that can harm your lungs too. These drugs include: chemotherapy drugs, heart medications, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs do not include all of them in each category, but are only certain types.
Medical conditions that may also cause lung damage include: sarcoidosis, Sjorgen’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and mixed connective tissue disease. In some cases, the cause of the disease is not known.
Interstitial Lung Disease Risk Factors
There are a variety of risk factors that can be found with Interstitial Lung Disease. Typically, this disease is only found in adults, but sometimes it does affect children. Your work environment is also a risk factor, as those that work in farming or mining are at a higher risk. If you have uncontrollable acid reflux and indigestion, you may be also at a higher risk for this disease. Smoking or being around second hand smoke is the top risk factor, and you should remove yourself from this immediately. Having radiation or chemotherapy to your chest and lungs may also be the cause of this disease.
Interstitial Lung Disease Complications
Interstitial Lung Disease can lead to a variety of other medical problems that can often be life threatening. Pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs, begins when there is scar tissue and low levels of oxygen in the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension is a disease that only becomes worse overtime.
Respiratory failure may occur when there is not enough oxygen-rich air in the lungs and there is a rising pressure in the pulmonary arteries. This may also cause heart failure.
Right-sided heart failure is a condition where your heart’s right ventricle has to pump harder to move the blood through the closed off pulmonary arteries. Eventually this ventricle will begin to no longer work because it has been under extra strain for so long.
Interstitial Lung Disease Diagnosis
Since there are so many other problems that will also fall into this disease, diagnosing may be hard. Your physician will begin by testing your blood work. Certain bloodwork that your physician draws can show an autoimmune disease or inflammatory responses. A computerized tomography (CT) scan can be the next step in identifying Interstitial Lung Disease, since this scan is able to see the amount of scarring on the lungs. An echocardiogram is a sonogram that is used to see the sound waves of the heart, which helps your physician visualize your heart. This test shows the pressure occurring in the right side of the heart.
There are a few pulmonary function tests that your physician may also ask you to complete. A spirometry is used to measure the amount of oxygen that you can breathe in and out of your lungs and the time that is required to do this too. This shows how oxygen can move throughout your lungs and bloodstream. Another pulmonary function test is called oximetry, where your physician will place a small device on your finger to measure the oxygen in your blood.
A pulmonary fibrosis can be diagnosed through collecting a sample of lung tissue. This sample may be obtained through one of three different ways. A bronchoscopy is done by inserting a small and flexible tube through your nose or mouth and down into your lungs. There are no major side effects from this, but sometimes the samples are too small for a proper diagnosis. A bronchoalveolar lavage is when the physician injects a tablespoon of salt water through the bronchoscope and immediately pulls it out. They can then test the cells in the salt water that came from the air sacs. Lastly, the most invasive collection way is through a surgical biopsy. Sometimes a biopsy is the only way to collect a sample size large enough for an accurate diagnosis.
The reversal of this diagnosis is not possible, but your physician may recommend ways to make symptoms improve temporarily or may slow down the disease. There are a few medications that your physician may recommend to begin. A corticosteroid medication may be useful in slowing down or stabilizing the progression. For people with Gastroesophageal reflux disease, your physician may prescribe something for that as well. Oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation may help to breathe easier and reduce blood pressure. Through rehabilitation, you may also receive emotional support.