Living with interstitial lung disease, or ILD, can be a struggle for those affected by it. This group of chronic disorders affects your ability to breathe, which can negatively impact your quality of life.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has created an interstitial lung disease program combining doctors with experts in pulmonary medicine, radiology and thoracic pathology with scientists and researchers to provide comprehensive care for people with all types of ILD.
Our mission is to improve the lives of people living with interstitial lung disease through individualized treatment plans made in a collaborative effort with providers in many specialties across the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center system.
As an academic health center, we’re actively researching interstitial lung disease in several capacities to help us better understand these conditions and discover better ways to treat them.
What is interstitial lung disease?
Interstitial lung disease is an umbrella term for a large group of disorders, which cause progressive varying degrees of scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue.
Currently, there are more than 200 conditions that fall under this category of pulmonary disease. They generally affect people older than 60. Most of the time, the condition affects your ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into your bloodstream.
Interstitial lung disease causes
The specific cause of ILD requires a thorough clinical evaluation. It can be linked to certain diseases, such as sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, it can be idiopathic, that is, without a specific identifiable cause.
A potential contributing factor is the environment around us. This includes medications and inhalants to which you’ve been exposed. A careful review of past jobs, medical treatment, such as radiation, and medications you’ve used may help identify a cause for ILD. Discussing family history is also key to determining if there is any genetic basis for your symptoms.
Interstitial lung disease symptoms
Symptoms of ILD often vary depending on the specific type of interstitial lung disease you have, and the conditions may be unpredictable. However, some commonly occurring symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity
- Dry cough
- Low oxygen levels
- Fatigue or weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Mild chest pain
- Blood in lungs
Diagnosis of interstitial lung disease
Identifying an interstitial lung disease isn’t always easy and we often have to perform a number of tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms and to offer a definitive diagnosis of which type of ILD you have.
Ultimately, ILD is diagnosed with computed topography (CT) imaging of the chest. We’ll use imaging, bloodwork, pulmonary function tests and potentially lung-tissue analysis to help us determine a specific cause and best course of treatment for your type of ILD.
Other tests we might perform include:
- Blood tests – We can test for various autoimmune diseases and allergies, which cause some interstitial lung diseases, and we can measure the amounts of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood.
- Chest X-rays and CT scans – These imaging tools help us see the lungs internally. We use high-resolution CT scans of the chest to best evaluate the lung tissue.
- Pulmonary function tests – We use a battery of lung tests to evaluate the overall function of the lungs, which may help us better understand the severity of the interstitial lung disease. We monitor this closely over time.
- Surgical lung biopsy – Although surgery is invasive, it’s sometimes necessary to obtain a lung tissue sample to make the most appropriate diagnosis.
Interstitial lung disease treatments
Treatment courses will vary depending on the specific type of interstitial lung disease. Some methods used to treat ILD include:
- Medications – Immunosuppressive medications, like prednisone, can help with inflammation while antifibrotics can slow the progression of scarring.
- Oxygen therapy – Giving you extra oxygen can help you feel better and stay active.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – This focuses on exercises that improve endurance, breathing techniques that increase efficiency and nutritional coaching.
- Lung transplant – As a regional lung transplant center of excellence, we offer evaluations to assess if and when lung transplantation is appropriate.
Why choose Ohio State for interstitial lung disease treatment?
The interstitial lung disease program at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is committed to improving the quality of life for people living with ILD.
We provide comprehensive pulmonary care for all types of interstitial lung disease. We do that in a variety of ways, including:
- Specialized staffing – Our program comprises nurses, advanced practice providers and physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with these lung diseases.
- A collaborative approach – We work with expert thoracic radiologists and pathologists as well as specialists in rheumatology, cardiology, gastroenterology, thoracic surgery, transplant pulmonology and palliative medicine to provide comprehensive personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s goals.
- Multiple practice locations – We have various locations around central Ohio where we can see you close to home.
- A robust research program – We’re dedicated to discovering and understanding the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the development and progression of interstitial lung diseases. We partner with industry leaders and other academic health centers to evaluate emerging therapies and identify new strategies to treat ILD.
- Patient and family support – As a member of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, we’re committed to advancing and improving the care of ILD patients through advocacy and education.