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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Interstitial Lung Disease

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Causes of Interstitial Lung Disease continued...

Drugs such as nitrofurantoin, amiodarone, bleomycin, and many others can rarely cause interstitial lung disease.

All told, these factors cause a small percentage of interstitial lung disease. The cause of most interstitial lung disease is unknown.

Who is at risk from interstitial lung disease? Anyone can develop interstitial lung disease. Men and women of any age can be affected. Interstitial lung disease is more common in people with autoimmune disease, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.

Symptoms of Interstitial Lung Disease

The most common symptom of all forms of interstitial lung disease is shortness of breath. Nearly all people with interstitial lung disease will experience breathlessness, which may get worse over time.

Other symptoms of interstitial lung disease include:

  • Cough, which is usually dry and nonproductive.
  • Weight loss, most often in people with COP or BOOP.

In most forms of interstitial lung disease, the shortness of breath develops slowly (over months). In interstitial pneumonias or acute interstitial pneumonitis, symptoms come on more rapidly (in hours or days).

Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease

People with interstitial lung disease usually come to see a doctor due to concern about shortness of breath or cough. Imaging tests of the lungs are usually done to identify the problem.

Chest X-ray: A simple chest X-ray is the first test in the evaluation of most people with a breathing problem. Chest X-ray films in people with interstitial lung disease may show fine lines in the lungs.

Computed tomography (CT scan): A CT scanner takes multiple X-rays of the chest and a computer creates detailed images of the lungs and surrounding structures. Interstitial lung disease can usually be seen on a CT scan.

High-resolution CT scan: If interstitial lung disease is suspected, using certain CT scanner settings can improve the images of the interstitium. This increases the CT scan's ability to detect interstitial lung disease.

Pulmonary function testing: A person sits in a sealed plastic booth and breathes through a tube. People with interstitial lung disease may have a reduced total lung capacity. They may also have a decreased ability to transfer oxygen from their lungs into their blood.

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