Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial Lung Disease- What is it?

The interstitium is an anatomic part of the lung which gets affected due to certain reasons and that is when the interstitial lung disease occurs. The interstitium covers both lungs as it is a complex network of tissues. This tissue network supports the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli for the lung. Through this complicated tissue network, there are blood vessels which enable gas exchange between air and blood in the lungs. Usually, the interstitium is thin thus making it almost invisible to the naked eye; it can be only viewed through CT scans and X-rays.

Different Types of Interstitial Lung Disease

The interstitium is thin as mentioned above but all kinds of interstitial lung disease cause this network to thicken. There can be various causes such as scarring, edema, and inflammation. While some forms of this disease are temporary, others are chronic and irreversible. Some of the commonest diseases are:

  • Interstitial pneumonia– The interstitium may be affected by the fungi, viruses and bacteria causing pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumonia the bacterium usually causing this disease.
  • Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia(COP)– This situation refers to a pneumonia like disease of lung interstitium without having any infection. This is also called Bronchilitis Obliterans without Organising Pneumonia (BOOP).
  • Asbestosis- This disease is caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Sarcoidosis- This disease is normally accompanied by symptoms like inflamed lymph nodes along with problem in the eyes, nerve, skin and even heart.
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis– This is caused when the interstitium is scarred due to unknown reasons. However, this is a progressive form of fibrosis which is also chronic.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis– This interstitial lung disease is caused by continuous exposure to dust, mold and other irritants.
  • Acute interstitial pneumonitis– This lung disease is quite fatal and often requires life support for the patient.

Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease

There are several causes of this disease but the commonest one is an infection from fungi, bacteria, and virus. When you are constantly exposed to dust, irritants, and mold this disease can occur. It can also occur when you are indulging in your hobby. Common irritants for the disease are:

  • Talc
  • Silica dust
  • Asbestos
  • Bird proteins usually from chickens, pigeons, and other exotic birds
  • Grain dust generally from farming
  • Coal dust or other metal dust from mining
  • Medicines like amiodarone, bleomycin, and nitrofurantoin

This disease can aggravate when the patient is already suffering from lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases.


The commonest symptoms of lung disease include cough which is usually dry and weight loss most often found in people with BOOP or COP. Patients also experience shortness of breath which develops over months. However, in the acute form, the symptoms might appear within hours. Normally, it is diagnosed by conducting x-ray, pulmonary function testing, and CT scans.

Treatment for Interstitial Lung Disease

The treatment for interstitial lung disease varies depending on the causes and the type of disease. Some of the commonest forms of treatment are:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Azathioprine
  • Inhaled oxygen
  • Lung transplant
  • N-acetylcysteine

However, not all of these medicines are free of side effects. Thus, consistent monitoring is required.

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