Interstitial Lung Disease
Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is lung disease affecting the supporting structure of the lungs (interstitium) and often involves the small airspaces (alveoli) as well. ILD comprises a very large number of different specific disease entities all with different treatments and outcomes.
Commoner forms of ILD include Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) often affecting patients beyond their sixth decade of life. It is often difficult to treat and is an area of respiratory medicine where much research is being undertaken. Other common types of ILD include allergic type reactions to inhaled particles known as Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, damage to lungs by inhaled fibres including asbestos causing asbestosis and sarcoidosis a type of ILD of no known cause.
Symptoms include progressive breathlessness on exertion and cough, which is usually dry. Complications include respiratory failure and sometimes heart failure. ILD is suspected when patients have compatible symptoms and diagnosis is confirmed with x-rays, CT scans of the chest and often lung biopsy. The severity is assessed with special breathing and exercise tests while underlying causes and complications require investigation with a number of other tests including blood tests.
It is very important the type of ILD is correctly diagnosed as treatment is very different between the different types and specialist consultation is generally recommended.