Interstitial lung diseases (ILD) is a collective term that represents a large group of diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and alveolar fibrosis, which cause lung scarring (fibrosis) that leads to stiffness in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe as it becomes difficult to get oxygen in the bloodstream. The zones of lung damage are pulmonary capillary endothelium, basement membrane, Alveolar epithelium, perilymphatic lung tissue, and perivascular tissue. This form of lung damage is irreversible and gradually worsens over time. Interstitial lung diseases share similar features among themselves, including nonproductive (dry) cough and shortness of breath but different ILDs have different treatments and conventional outlooks. These diseases are more common in adults and although rare but might occur in children.
Risk Factors of Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILD)
Interstitial lung disease risks include genetics, some medications, or medical treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Smoking poses a major danger in the case of this condition and occupational exposure to hazardous materials has been linked to lung diseases such as asbestosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Besides these concerns, people with autoimmune diseases, like sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis, are also at an increased risk of developing such a disease condition.
Clinical Presentation of ILD
The most common collective symptom of interstitial lung diseases is shortness of breath. This symptom is often accompanied by dry cough, fatigue, chest discomfort, and weight loss in some cases. In most cases, by the time the symptoms appear lung damage has already been done so it is important to see your doctor immediately. Severe cases that are left untreated can develop life-threatening complications including high blood pressure, heart, or respiratory failure.
Clinical Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILD)
To diagnose Interstitial Lung Disease, doctors generally opt for a chest x-ray or CT scan for observing your lungs. An advanced lung function test might be used to measure the total lung capacity of the patient to detect any damage or deterioration due to interstitial lung diseases. To detect specific conditions of Interstitial Lung diseases, more invasive methods like lung biopsy or bronchoscopy for better diagnosis.
Preventive Measures for ILD
Although there is no way to prevent genetic or idiopathic causes of Interstitial Lung Disease but external causes of ILDs might be prevented by these few measures:
- Wearing a respirator mask to filter harmful particles such as asbestos, metal dust, or chemicals.>
- Avoiding smoking is a must!
- Opting for immunizations for flu and pneumonia to protect the lungs
Conventional Treatment of ILD
Interstitial Lung Disease treatments depend on specific disease conditions and the severity of them. Lung tissue damage due to ILDs is often progressive and unfortunately irreversible, so conventional treatment regime mostly focusses on relieving the patients of their symptoms and reduce the progression of the disease to improve the quality of living for the patients. Steroid medications, such as corticosteroids, are used to decrease tissue inflammation in the lungs and besides drugs, therapies like oxygen therapy is a common treatment as this helps in delivering an extra dose of oxygen to make breathing easy for the patients and lessen the health complications, such as lung failure or heart failure, due to low blood oxygen levels. Some doctors also recommend therapy in pulmonary rehabilitation for fixing lung efficiency, improve physical endurance, and offer support for patients emotionally. In such severe conditions, patients are advised by doctors to go for lung transplants.
Alternative Therapy of Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILD)
Regenerative medicine, using stem cells as its potential candidate, has become quite popular among the healthcare community for treating tissue-damaging disorders. Stem cells are specialized functional cells in the body that have the potential to differentiate into different cell lineages and promote repair and rejuvenation of the deteriorated tissue environment. Doctors and researchers have been using mesenchymal stem cells, from adipose stromal cells and bone marrow, for therapeutic purposes as they bypass the ethical concerns of using embryonic stem cells. Moreover, autologous mesenchymal stem cells have been proven to be non-risky and safe alternatives to conventional treatments in case of tissue-damaging disorders like neuromuscular disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, etc.
Studies have shown that globally, autologous stem cell therapy has benefitted over 82% of patients suffering from ILDs to improve their quality of life by helping with increased lung capacity and reduced lung damage. Although stem cell treatment for interstitial lung diseases has not been regarded as a mainstream therapeutic regime, its ability to repair damaged lung tissues naturally without the complications of surgical procedures has made it an attractive alternative to conventional treatments.
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