American University of Beirut

Patient Education

​​​​​​​What is Interstitial Lung Disease?

Interstitial Lung Diseases describe more than 200 lung disorders that lead to progressive loss of lung function and worsening low oxygen and shortness of breath. These diseases are classified together because they will affect the tissue and space around the alveoli (air sacs), called the interstitium.

Depending on the specific disease, other compartments of the lung, including the alveoli themselves, the airways (trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles), the blood vessels, and the pleura(outside lining of the lung), may also be affected. In general, most interstitial lung disease is characterized by four manifestations:

  • Respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough
  • Specific chest radiographic abnormalities
  • Typical changes on pulmonary functions tests in which the lung volume is decreased
  • Characteristic microscopic patterns of inflammation and fibro

​How is ILD treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your interstitial lung disease and how severe your symptoms are.If your lung disease is caused by an infection, your doctor might prescribe medicines to kill the germs causing the infection.If your lung disease is caused by a medicine you take, your doctor will recommend that you stop taking that medicine.

Many people with interstitial lung disease are treated with:

  • Extra oxygen (that you carry around with you in a tank)
  • Steroid medicines to reduce inflammation. These are not the same as the steroids some athletes take illegally.
  • Other medicines that "calm down" the immune system or prevent scarring
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation : In pulmonary rehab, people learn exercises and ways to breathe that can help with symptoms.
  • In some cases, people with severe interstitial lung disease might be treated with a lung transplant. This is surgery to replace 1 or both diseased lungs with healthy lungs.

​Types of treated ILD

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