Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a
group of conditions that cause inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs
(alveoli)
in the lungs. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen.

Examples of ILD include these
conditions:

  • Asbestosis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

Front view of male head and torso showing respiratory system.

Inside your lungs

When you breathe, air travels in
and out of your lungs through the windpipe (trachea), airways (bronchi), and branching
airways (bronchioles). Oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are exchanged in the tiny
air sacs (alveoli). Oxygen passes from the alveoli to the blood vessels through the
tissue called interstitium. The blood vessels then carry oxygen-rich blood to the
rest
of your body. Carbon dioxide moves back from the blood vessels to the alveoli. You
then
breathe it out.

Bronchiole and alveolar sac with blood supply showing oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.
Closeup view of bronchiole and alveolus showing thickened interstitial tissue.

How lungs become damaged

With ILD, the lungs
have inflammation and scarring around the alveoli. The changes make it hard to take
in
oxygen.

Closeup view of interstitial tissue in lung showing gas exchange between alveolus and capillary.
Closeup view of interstitial tissue in lung showing impaired gas exchange between alveolus and capillary because of interstitial lung disease.

Causes of ILD

In most cases, ILD has no known
cause. Some known causes include:

  • Dust from asbestos or silica,
    coal dust, gases, fumes, or poisons

  • Some medicines

  • Radiation therapy

  • Certain lung infections

  • Connective tissue disease,
    such as scleroderma, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment and healthcare providers for
ILD

Treatment may include:

  • Medicine
  • Breathing methods
  • Exercise
  • In some cases, you may need a lung transplant

Your healthcare team may
include:

  • Primary care provider. This
    could be your family doctor or internist.

  • Pulmonologist. This is a
    doctor who specializes in treating lung problems.

  • Respiratory therapist. This
    person gives treatment and support for people with lung disease.

  • Social worker. This person
    helps with your daily needs and family life, accessing community resources,
    counseling services, and stress management.