Autoimmune lung diseases, also known as interstitial lung disease, is a group of lung disorders where the deep lung tissues become inflamed and then damaged. The inflammation and damage affects a patient’s ability to breathe. The damage caused by autoimmune lung disease can be irreversible, but some medications can slow the damage.

What are autoimmune lung diseases?

Autoimmune lung diseases are a large group of disorders that cause the progressive scarring of lung tissue. Autoimmune lung disease cause the lungs to become inflamed and scarred. The scarring will begin to affect a patient’s ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into the bloodstream.

The symptoms of autoimmune lung diseases are shortness of breath at rest and dry cough. The shortness of breath may not be severe at first and may only be noticed when exercising or other hard activities. As the disease progresses, it will be harder to breathe when performing less strenuous activities such as getting dressed. A dry cough is a cough not associated with mucus or sputum.

What are the causes of autoimmune lung disease?

Autoimmune lung disease have various causes and in some cases the causes are unknown. It can occur when the lungs are injured and heal abnormally. The body usually generates the right amount of tissue to repair damages, but with an autoimmune lung disease, the repair process goes awry and the tissue around the alveoli (the lung’s air sacs) become scarred and thickened.

Other causes for autoimmune lung diseases include:

  • Long-term exposure to hazardous materials
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Radiation treatment to the chest
  • Some antibiotics
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma

Some risk factors can increase a person’s chances of having an autoimmune lung disease. These risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Exposure to occupational and environmental toxins
  • Smoking
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Without any treatment, autoimmune lung disease can lead to life-threatening complications such as high blood pressure in the lungs, right-sided heart failure and respiratory failure.

How are autoimmune lung diseases treated?

The treatment used for autoimmune lung diseases vary depending on the cause of the disease. Once the lungs are scarred, there is no way to reverse the damages. If the cause of an autoimmune lung disease is unknown, there is no known effective therapy.

If the cause is an autoimmune disease, drugs that suppress the immune system and reduce swelling may be prescribed. Sometimes treatment can include a corticosteroid in combination with other drugs, but these combinations have not proved very effective over the long run.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help improve daily functioning. Pulmonary rehabilitation includes learning about different breathing methods to improve lung efficiency, how to stay active and strong and how to eat enough calories and nutrients.

In severe cases, a lung transplant may be recommended.
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with an autoimmune lung disease or have an autoimmune lung disease and would like to learn more about your treatment options, call (407) 539-2766 to meet with one of our specialists.

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