Interstitial Lung Disease is a category of diseases that cause scarring of the lung tissue. The lungs contain alveoli that assist with breathing. Multiple lung diseases go under this category. When there is a lot of scarring in the lungs, it makes breathing very difficult. The lungs operate partially by opening and closing. They are air sacs. If the lungs become stiff, they cannot open or close. When you cannot get enough oxygen, your blood does not get enough oxygen, and the whole body suffers. There are different causes for interstitial lung disease. The condition cannot be cured, but it can be treated with medication.
The primary purpose of the lungs is a gas exchange. We breathe in oxygen, and we breathe out carbon dioxide. There is an exchange of these gasses through the bronchi and alveoli of the lungs. The oxygen is put into the blood. Through the blood, oxygen gets out to the rest of the body. The carbon dioxide is simultaneously removed from the blood and expelled when we breathe out. The lungs expand and contract as we breathe. The covering over the lungs called the pleura covers the lungs and adds lubrication, so there is no friction when the lungs move. Scarring in the lungs affect the overall function of the lungs and cause major problems with breathing.
Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease
There are several causes of interstitial lung disease. Sometimes the disease is acquired and other times it is inherited. Acquired interstitial lung disease results from injuries that do not heal properly. It may seem hard to injure your lungs, but you be surprised by how often that happens. People can have a punctured lung. That can happen by something being swallowed that goes through the lung or something going through the chest. You can also have a major blow to the chest that also puts pressure on the lung and causes damage. When these things do not heal properly, you can end up with scarring.
The environment and genetic diseases also cause interstitial lung disease. Sometimes exposure to certain environmental things like coal dust, mold, and asbestos can lead to interstitial lung disease. Certain medications may also be a source of the problem. Chemotherapy and heart medications, in particular, can have side effects that lead to scarring. Finally, autoimmune diseases cause problems. Most autoimmune diseases are acquired. Some familiar ones include rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, connective tissue disease, and lupus.
There are many symptoms of interstitial lung disease. Shortness of breath is the primary symptom. Shortness of breath can happen all of a sudden. When you exert yourself, it is common to have shortness of breath, but when you are at rest and cannot breathe, that is a sure sign something is wrong. A dry cough is another symptom. Coughing usually signifies something in the lungs. When you cough, the lungs are trying to clean something out. Anybody can have a cough, but when it is ongoing, and nothing seems to treat, it can mean there is an abnormality in the lungs. Eventually, you will have low oxygen levels and rapid breathing. Sometimes acid reflux disease begins. The result of it all is respiratory failure.
Diagnostic scans and pulmonary tests are both done to diagnose interstitial lung problems. X-rays and CT scans are beneficial. The tests show the scarring in the lungs and the severity of the damage. Echocardiograms can also help. The pulmonary test evaluates oxygen levels in the lungs. It measures oxygen saturation. Other tests evaluate the move of oxygen in and out. Lung tissue can be examined after surgical extraction. The tissue of the lungs can determine a lot.
There is no cure for interstitial lung disease. Some treatments help to slow the progression of the disease. Medication is divided into two categories: anti-inflammatory and anti-immunosuppression. The first drug controls inflammation, particularly caused by arthritis. The second drug suppresses the immune system. These drugs help with autoimmune causes. Oxygen therapy is also necessary. Oxygen therapy makes breathing easier and can help reduce blood pressure. It may also improve complications in the blood oxygen levels. Lung transplants are the absolute last resort. A lung transplant is only considered when nothing else works, and the problem is severe. A lung transplant may be the only cure for the problem.
Interstitial Lung Disease is a disease that is not extremely common, but it is difficult to cure. If you have certain autoimmune diseases, it is good to be aware of interstitial lung disease symptoms. You should also avoid breathing in mold, dust, and asbestos. These things put you at risk for interstitial lung disease. If these things are a part of your environment, be sure to wear a mask. If you notice any symptoms, contact a pulmonologist and get the treatment you need right away.
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