Interstitial Lung Disease

(aka:  ILD, pulmonary fibrosis, scarring, ground glass, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis)


Interstitial lung disease is a group of lung diseases which involve fibrosis or scarring in the lungs or other abnormalities which involve a large part of the lung.  These abnormalities can cause a decrease in the ability of the lung to oxygenate the blood.  This occurs because the scarring or inflammation in the tiny air sacs of the lungs makes the sacs stiff and oxygen cannot pass through them to the blood stream.

WHAT CAUSES INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE? Some types of interstitial lung disease have a known cause but many we do not know why they occur.  Some known causes of interstitial lung disease include toxins or pollutants including work-place exposures such as asbestos or silica dust.  There are many other chemicals, fumes, and substances which also cause interstitial lung disease.  Other causes include infections, radiation, and medications.  Also some other medical conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis can include interstitial lung disease.  There is also a form of interstitial lung disease which does not have a known cause, also called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or IPF. Smoking, family history and gastroesophageal  reflux disease have been identified as risk factors.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE?  Shortness of breath, a dry cough, wheezing and abnormal fingernails are some of the symptoms of interstitial lung disease.  The symptoms can be acute in onset or start out with minor symptoms building in severity.  A low oxygen level, abnormal chest x-ray and abnormal pulmonary function tests are present in patients with interstitial lung disease.

HOW IS INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE TREATED? Treatment options usually include corticosteroids.  Certain cytotoxic drugs such as azathioprine are also used.  Commonly patients with interstitial lung disease require oxygen therapy.  For those who do not improve with other therapies, lung transplantation is considered.

WHAT TO EXPECT ON MY FIRST VISIT TO PCCS? We will perform full pulmonary function testing and an x-ray to evaluate for the abnormalities of interstitial lung disease.  A full medical history will be taken and a physical exam will be done.  Some follow up tests which may be needed include C.T. of the chest (if not already done), blood work, and echocardiogram.