Interstitial Lung Disease (cont.)

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How is interstitial lung disease diagnosed?

Interstitial lung disease cannot be diagnosed simply on the basis of a medical history and physical examination. In most cases, a number of diagnostic tests must be used. The symptoms of interstitial lung disease overlap with those of many other conditions, including cardiovascular diseases.

  • Blood tests may help provide direction in the initial stage of diagnosis and rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms. Measurement of the oxygen level in the arterial blood may also be performed.
  • Imaging studies, such as chest X-rays and CT scans are often the first diagnostic step and may also help rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are noninvasive tests that measure the function of the lungs. The test involves blowing into a tube that is part of an instrument called a spirometer. This can measure the volume of the lungs as well as the air flow into and out of the lungs.
  • Biopsies or washings may be taken of the lungs and airways during bronchoscopy (examination of the airways with a viewing tube). The removed tissue samples are then examined by a pathologist to establish the diagnosis. In certain cases, open surgical biopsy of the lung may be required to obtain an adequate tissue sample for diagnosis.

How is interstitial lung disease treated?

The choice of treatment depends upon a number of factors including the cause of the interstitial lung disease and the overall health status of the patient. Most commonly, corticosteroid drugs are given in an attempt to reduce the inflammation. Sometimes, immune-suppressing drugs, such as azathioprine Imuran) or cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) are also given, either in combination with steroids or following a course of steroid treatment. Some patients with interstitial lung disease benefit from oxygen therapy and/or respiratory therapy (pulmonary rehabilitation) to improve daily functioning. Smoking cessation is critical for those with interstitial lung disease. Finally, in severe cases, lung transplantation may be considered in certain patients.

Medically reviewed by James E Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease
"Nonspecific interstitial pneumonia"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/12/2013

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