Are you at risk for an interstitial lung disease?

Are you at risk for an interstitial lung disease?

You may have never heard of the umbrella term “interstitial lung disease (ILD),” but you’re likely familiar with a few types of the 100+ diseases that fall within this category. 


“There are several types of ILD,” explains Dr. Michael Katsoulis, a pulmonologist with Advocate Health Care. “A common characteristic between the different types of ILD is that they cause an abnormality in the lung interstitium, which is the space between the air sacs and blood vessels that contains connective tissue. ILD can be drug induced or caused by genetics, an autoimmune disease, radiation and environmental/occupational exposures. Sometimes a cause cannot be identified. We call this ‘idiopathic.’”


Dr. Katsoulis says age, genetics, smoking history, medications and medical treatments can all predispose a person to ILD. 


“These details can help differentiate the type of ILD. For example, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis tends to develop in older patients. Inherited and autoimmune types of ILD can present in younger patients. Gender can also play a role – men are more likely to develop ILD from certain occupational exposures like silicosis from mining and sandblasting or coal worker’s pneumonconiosis. Some rare types of ILD are seen almost exclusively in women, such as lymphangioleiomyomatosis. Medical treatments like amiodarone to treat heart conditions and cancer radiation treatments can also predispose a person to ILD.”


Warning signs of ILD can include shortness of breath with activity and a dry cough. Dr. Katsoulis says the symptoms are often easy to overlook.


“Talking with your doctor can help identify ILD early with imaging and pulmonary function testing. Early diagnosis can help improve disease outcome. Sometimes treatment is aimed at slowing the progression of fibrosis with medications. Treating an underlying associated disease like an autoimmune disorder can also lead to improved lung function. Wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) while on the job and quitting smoking can also help prevent ILD.”

Want to learn more about your risk for lung cancer? Take a free online quiz.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.