Interstitial lung disease is a term that is applied to a category of various lung conditions and disorders. These conditions cause inflammation and irritation in the lungs and can also cause damage to lung tissue. Another aspect that these conditions all have in common is the fact that they affect what is known as the interstitium, which is a type of tissue found in both lungs. This tissue supports the air sacs in the lungs.
When a person suffers from an interstitial lung disease, the interstitium becomes stiff or develops scar tissue. This can cause the lungs overall to become stiff and can restrict breathing as the air sacs will not be able to completely fill with air during respiration.
There are numerous potential causes for interstitial lung disease. When a person suffers an injury to the lungs, the healing response in the lung tissue could proceed abnormally and cause the scarring and stiffening to occur. Other possible causes are certain medications and radiation therapy, exposure to certain environmental toxins like coal dust or mold, and some autoimmune diseases. Asbestos is also a common potential cause of interstitial lung disease.
For any type of interstitial lung disease, the most prevalent and common symptom is shortness of breath. This shortness of breath can occur when the person is exerting themselves or when they are at rest.
Suffering from a chronic cough is also a common problem. Some interstitial lung diseases can also cause a person to suffer from unexpected weight loss, general fatigue, and muscle aches and pains.
The treatment options for interstitial lung disease depend upon the exact condition the person is suffering from as well as the progression of the condition.
Some interstitial lung diseases respond to prescription medications to suppress the immune system or to improve lung function. Oxygen therapy can also help make it easier for the affected person to breathe and may be administered during sleep or exercise or even 24/7 if necessary. Surgery may also be an option for interstitial lung disease but is usually a last resort because this means that a person needs a lung transplant.