Interstitial Lung Diseases Treatment
Your treatment for ILDs will depend on the cause of your condition and how serious your symptoms are. Your healthcare provider will work with you to decide on a treatment plan for you.
Treatment for ILDs does not cure your lung damage, but it can prevent lung damage from getting worse and can help you breathe easier.
Healthy lifestyle changes
If your ILD is caused by substances in your environment or at work, you will need to avoid these substances. If you smoke, your doctor will ask you to stop smoking. Smoking can make your lung damage worse and can raise your risk of health problems.
Depending on the type of ILD you have, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help you breathe easier. These medicines work in different ways:
- Bronchodilators can relax the muscles around your airways. This helps open your airways and makes breathing easier. Most often, this medicine is taken using a device called an inhaler. Side effects can include dizziness, shakiness, headache, and sleep changes.
- Corticosteroids can help treat in your lungs. You may take these with an inhaler or as a pill. Common side effects from inhaled corticosteroids include a hoarse voice or a mouth infection called thrush. A spacer or holding chamber on your inhaler can help avoid these side effects. Oral corticosteroids can have more side effects than inhaled corticosteroids, because the medicine goes outside the lungs.
- Antifibrotics (nintedanib and pirfenidone) can help slow down lung damage. These medicines block growth factors in cells that are involved in causing scarring in the lungs. You may need to take these pills each day. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, dizziness, digestive problems, decreased appetite, weight loss, and sensitivity to light.
Oxygen therapy is a treatment that delivers oxygen gas for you to breathe. You can receive oxygen therapy from tubes resting in your nose, a face mask, or a tube placed in your trachea (windpipe). You may need oxygen therapy if you have a condition that causes your blood oxygen levels to be too low.
Oxygen therapy can be given for a short or long period of time in the hospital, another medical setting, or at home. Oxygen poses a fire risk, so you should never smoke or use flammable materials when using oxygen. You may experience side effects from this treatment, such as a dry or bloody nose, tiredness, and morning headaches. Oxygen therapy is generally safe.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a supervised program that includes exercise training, health education, and breathing techniques for people who have certain lung conditions, lung problems due to other conditions, or after a lung transplant. Your provider may talk to you about pulmonary rehabilitation to help you breathe easier and improve your quality of life.
Learn more on our Pulmonary Rehabilitation page.
Lung transplant is surgery to remove a diseased lung and replace it with a healthy lung. Lung transplants are used to improve quality of life and extend the lifespan for people who have severe or advanced chronic lung conditions that do not respond to other treatments.
During a lung transplant, you will have general anesthesia and will not be awake for the surgery. A surgeon will open your chest, cut the main airway and blood vessels, and remove your diseased lung. The surgeon will connect the healthy donor lung, reconnect the blood vessels, and close your chest. After the surgery, you will recover in the hospital for one to three weeks. After leaving the hospital, you will visit your doctor often to make sure that you are recovering well.
To help prevent your body from rejecting the new lung, you will need to take medicines for the rest of your life that suppress your . Practicing good hygiene, getting annual vaccines, and adopting healthy lifestyle choices such as heart-healthy eating and not smoking are very important.