What Is the Prognosis of Interstitial Lung Disease?

Medications can help to slow the progression of interstitial lung disease, but many patients never regain the full use of their lungs, according to Mayo Clinic. Lung scarring due to interstitial lung disease is generally permanent, and treatment does not always stop the progression of the disease.

Interstitial lung disease refers to a group of disorders that cause progressive, irreversible scarring of lung tissue, notes Mayo Clinic. Primary symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath at rest or upon exertion. As the disease progresses, the scarring of the lungs can cause lung stiffness and affect a patient's ability to breathe.

Interstitial lung disease can be triggered by certain autoimmune diseases, exposure to organic or inorganic materials in the home or workplace, medications and radiation, states Mayo Clinic. In some instances, the cause of interstitial lung disease is unknown. Factors that increase risk for interstitial lung disease include exposure to toxins such as asbestos fiber and coal dust, family history of the disease and smoking.

Life-threatening complications associated with interstitial lung disease include acute exacerbation, which results in a rapid worsening of respiratory functions; pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs that can lead to failure of the right side of the heart; and low oxygen, which can necessitate oxygen support, according to Mayo Clinic. Treatment options for interstitial lung disease include anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic medications, oxygen therapy and, if all other treatments fail, lung transplantation.