In a patient with ILD, the lung tissue known as interstitium thickens due to inflammation, damage, or a buildup of fluid. This causes the lungs to begin to scar or stiffen, which can contribute to a number of respiratory problems.
The term “ILD” encompasses a number of different diseases affecting the lungs. The Interstitial Lung Disease Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of ILD.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Interstitial Lung Disease
Patients showing symptoms of a potential interstitial lung disease will usually be referred by their physician to the Respiratory and Critical Care Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease
New patients will meet with a pulmonologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of interstitial lung disease. The physician will review the results of past tests, including pulmonary function tests or chest imaging such as CT scans, and may request additional testing. For some patients, a surgical lung biopsy or bronchoscopy may be needed to establish an ILD diagnosis.
Treatment of Interstitial Lung Disease
The appropriate treatment program for each patient will depend on what type of ILD has been diagnosed. Many patients’ treatment plans may include:
- Medication: Many new medications are available to help slow the progression of the disease. Other medications can help suppress the immune system, which can reduce the potential for lung injury.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: This type of program focuses on improving lung function through physical exercise, and the use of breathing techniques, as well as providing nutritional counseling and emotional support for the patient.
- Addressing environmental causes: Exposure-related ILDs can occur when harmful substances are repeatedly entering the patient’s lungs during normal breathing. Treatment involves removing the substance from the patient’s environment, or if the substance is always present in the environment, the use of immunosuppressing drugs.
- Oxygen therapy: This is used only in cases of severe ILD, and provides supplemental oxygen to the lungs as a way of temporarily making it easier for the patient to breathe during sleep or exercise.
- Lung transplant: For patients with severe ILD who will not benefit from non-surgical treatment, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi offers a Lung Transplant Link program in conjunction with Cleveland Clinic in the United States in order to expedite testing and referrals.
- Observation: Some mild ILDs do not require immediate intervention. These patients are best treated with careful observation, and more advanced treatments introduced as needed.
Additional Information for Patients with Interstitial Lung Disease
For patients already diagnosed with an interstitial lung disease, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides continuity of care as a part of their ongoing treatment plan. Care and treatment for these patients typically includes outpatient consultations with a pulmonary physician who specializes in ILD, repeated pulmonary function testing, and occasional chest imaging studies (such as CT scans).
Interstitial Lung Disease Program Caregivers
The Interstitial Lung Disease Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is spearheaded by a multidisciplinary team of physicians and specialists, including:
- Thoracic surgeons
- Pathologists with expertise in diagnosing patients with ILD
- Specialized nursing staff
- Other caregivers trained in providing specialized care
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