Interstitial lung disease
Interstitial lung disease refers to a large group of lung disorders which majorly causes scarring of lung tissues, mostly due to long term exposure to pollutants. This eventually affects your ease of breathing and leads to reduced blood oxygen levels.
Causes of interstitial lung disease includes:
- Exposure to unsafe chemicals, dusts and fibers
- Repeated long term exposure to irritants
- Certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs
- Severe single exposure to unsafe agent can also damage the lungs
- Smoking and long term second hand smoking
- Certain medical conditions such as sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Occupational exposure to chemicals and other pollutants.
Symptoms may not exhibit in the initial stages. The irreversible scarring of lung tissues might already have occurred when the symptoms appear. Symptoms of interstitial lung disease includes:
- Dry cough
- Coughing persistently
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- Abnormal breathing pattern
Diagnosis of interstitial lung disease can be difficult to rule out and the procedures may include:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Chest X-rays
- Blood tests
- Pulmonary function tests
- CT scan
- Surgical biopsy
There is no exact way to prevent interstitial lung diseases. Possible measures include:
- Avoid smoking
- Stay away from inhaled substances
- Wear protective devices to filter out airborne pollutants.
The scarring of lung tissues is an irreversible process. There is no cure for the conditions. Treatment can be done to slow down its progression and to improve the quality of life.
- Preventing further exposure to irritants and smoking is one of the first steps in the treatment of interstitial lung disease.
- Medications such as corticosteroids and drugs to reduce acid reflux can be used to relieve the symptoms and slow down the progression of the condition.
- Oxygen therapy may be prescribed to ease breathing.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation is also a part of the treatment for interstitial lung disease. It involves physical exercise, breathing techniques, emotional support and nutritional counselling to help in improving daily functioning.
- Lung transplantation: it is a surgical procedure in which the affected lung is replaced with a healthy one. This is used in case of severely damaged lungs.
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