Interstitial lung disease is a group of conditions that cause inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen.
Inside your lungs
When you breathe, air travels in and out of your lungs through the windpipe (trachea), airways (bronchi), and branching airways (bronchioles). Oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are exchanged in the tiny air sacs (alveoli). Oxygen passes from the alveoli to the blood vessels through the tissue called interstitium. The blood vessels then carry oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. Carbon dioxide moves back from the blood vessels to the alveoli. You then breathe it out.
How lungs become damaged
With interstitial lung disease, the lungs have inflammation and scarring around the alveoli. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen.
Causes of interstitial lung disease
In most cases, interstitial lung disease has no known cause. Some known causes include:
Dust from asbestos or silica, gases, fumes, or poisons
Certain lung infections
Connective tissue disease. These include scleroderma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment and healthcare providers for interstitial lung disease
Treatment may include medicine, breathing techniques, exercise, and stress management. In some cases, you may need a lung transplant. Your healthcare team may include:
Primary care provider. This could be your family doctor or internist.
Pulmonologist. This is doctor who specializes in treating lung problems.
Respiratory therapist. This person gives treatment and support for people with lung disease.
Social worker. This person helps with your daily needs and family life, accessing community resources, counseling services, and stress management.