Because current therapy is not thought to reverse scarring that has already taken place, it is important to diagnose and treat interstitial lung disease as early as possible. If your doctor has identified an occupational or environmental exposure, removal from the source of the problem is essential - even if it means giving up your job, hobby, or changing where you live. People who respond well to therapy generally report less shortness of breath with exercise and stable breathing tests.
The goals of treatment are to:
Identify the specific disease, start therapy early to decrease inflammation and prevent further lung scarring.
Remove the source of the problem, when possible.
Minimize and manage potential complications of ILD.
Improve or prevent deterioration in a patient's quality of life.
The type of medication and length of therapy depends on the specific type of interstitial lung disease. With some types of ILD, removing the source of exposure - including cigarette smoke, some medications, and environmental irritants - may be all that is needed. With other types of ILD, medications and even surgery may be required.
Many medications are used to treat interstitial lung disease and its various symptoms. The medications seek to make breathing more productive, reduce inflammation, and suppress overactive immune systems. Learn about medications to treat ILD.
is required for some patients with interstitial lung disease. Decreased lung function and/or pulmonary hypertension may cause blood oxygen levels to be too low. Some may need oxygen therapy all of the time while others may need it only during sleep and exercise. There are many systems used to deliver oxygen. They allow patients to be active and travel while using oxygen.
A pulmonary rehabilitation program is often recommended to help patients with ILD achieve their highest possible level of functioning. This program includes education, exercise conditioning, breathing techniques, energy saving techniques, respiratory therapy evaluation, nutritional counseling and psychosocial support.
If the above therapies fail to adequately treat ILD, lung transplant is an option for some advanced cases. With improved surgical techniques and post-transplant care, transplantation may offer improved quality of life and prolonged survival to selected patients.
Response to therapy varies widely. Some types of interstitial lung disease may respond quickly and others may not respond at all. Treatment is considered successful if symptoms, physiological, and x-ray findings are stabilized. Even with treatment, many types of interstitial lung disease progress naturally with a worsening of symptoms, x-ray, and physiologic findings. Sometimes worsening is due to a complication of the disease or therapy. This may include conditions such as pulmonary hypertension or right heart failure. Some therapies may result in infection, muscle weakness and osteoporosis.