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Like every other organ in our body, our lungs are essential in continuing to live. Therefore, the slightest lung problem can negatively affect the quality of life. One of these problems is an interstitial lung disease.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in interstitial lung disease. So what is interstitial lung disease, and what are its symptoms? We have gathered all the details in this article.

Interstitial Lung Diseases of Known and Unknown Causes

Air sacs, also called alveoli, make up the lungs and are used for breathing and oxygenation. A thickening around these air sacs for various reasons impairs oxygenation and makes breathing difficult.

These thickenings are called interstitial lung diseases and are often accompanied by scar formation and non-microbial inflammation. Inflammation causes respiratory capacity to be affected and reduces the amount of oxygen entering the bloodstream.

There are two types of interstitial lung disease: those with known cause and those with unknown cause. Dust hypersensitivity pneumonia, pulmonary edema, and rheumatologic diseases are examples of interstitial lung diseases with known causes.

Acute interstitial pneumonia, advanced sarcoidosis, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis are among the interstitial diseases of unknown causes.

Although it is common in the elderly above 50, we occasionally see it in children under one.

Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Diseases

The most common symptom of this disease is shortness of breath. Shortness of breath occurs at rest or after activities; a dry cough can accompany it. Nail deformity is also one of the symptoms encountered in some patients.

The nail deformity referred to as "clubbing" means that irreversible lung damage has begun. Since early diagnosis and treatment of these diseases are vital, it is incredibly beneficial for patients with these symptoms to see a doctor immediately.

Causes of Interstitial Lung Diseases

Infections, genetic causes, heart diseases, and rheumatological diseases cause interstitial lung diseases. We can mention three reasons: environmental, medications, and various conditions. Receiving radiation therapy, inhaling bird or animal droppings, and exposure to silica dust or asbestos fibers can be cited as environmental causes.

Chemotherapy, medications for heart diseases, or antibiotics can also cause this disease. Finally, conditions affecting the immune system, such as Sjogren's syndrome, sarcoidosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause interstitial lung diseases.

Apart from all these, we know that lung infections and cancer can also cause this disease. The risk factors are listed as follows:

  • Interstitial lung diseases are much more likely to be seen in the elderly
  • Occupational exposure to dust or chemicals is a high risk.
  • Patients with uncontrolled reflux are in the high-risk group.
  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer treatment are in the risk group.

Also, people who smoke are much more likely to develop interstitial lung disease than people who don't smoke. If left untreated, interstitial lung diseases can lead to more severe illnesses such as pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, or respiratory failure. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease are essential.

Treatment of Interstitial Lung Diseases

Thickening of the lung tissue is usually an irreversible problem. Although the treatment methods limit the progression of the disease, they cannot completely stop it.

Therefore, patients with this disease may never be able to use their lungs fully. Therefore, lung transplantation is inevitable for some patients

The primary purpose of the treatments applied is to stop the progression of the disease and to increase the patient's quality of life. For this, we can use the following methods depending on the age and condition of the patient: oxygen therapy, medications, surgery, and pulmonary rehabilitation.

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