Overview Of Fibrous Interstitial Pneumonia
Fibrous Interstitial Pneumonia is synonymous with the term Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is a chronic, progressive lung disease. This condition causes scar tissue (fibrosis) to build up in the lungs, which makes the lungs unable to transport oxygen into the bloodstream effectively. The disease usually affects people between the ages of 50 and 70. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis belongs to a group of conditions called interstitial lung diseases (also known as ILD), which describes lung diseases that involve inflammation or scarring in the lung.
The most common signs and symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis are shortness of breath and a persistent dry, hacking cough. Many affected individuals also experience a loss of appetite and gradual weight loss. Some people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis develop widened and rounded tips of the fingers and toes (clubbing) resulting from a shortage of oxygen. These features are relatively nonspecific; not everyone with these health problems has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Other respiratory diseases, some of which are less serious, can cause similar signs and symptoms.
In people with fibrous interstitial pneumonia, scarring of the lungs increases over time until the lungs can no longer provide enough oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues. Some people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis develop other serious lung conditions, including lung cancer, blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli), pneumonia, or high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Most affected individuals survive 3 to 5 years after their diagnosis. However, the course of the disease is highly variable; some affected people become seriously ill within a few months, while others may live with the disease for a decade or longer.
In most cases, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis occurs in only one person in a family. These cases are described as sporadic. However, a small percentage of people with this disease have at least one other affected family member. When idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis occurs in multiple members of the same family, it is known as familial pulmonary fibrosis.
Commonly Associated With
- cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis
- idiopathic fibrosing alveolitis, chronic form
- usual interstitial pneumonia
Causes Of Fibrous Interstitial Pneumonia
The cause of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is unknown. The fibrosis that builds up in the lungs is thought to develop as a result of abnormal tissue repair following tissue damage. This abnormal repair response probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is likely that genetic changes increase a person’s risk of developing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and then exposure to certain environmental factors triggers the disease.
Changes in several genes have been suggested as risk factors for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, while it is likely that other genetic influences have yet to be discovered. Most of the known genetic changes account for only a small proportion of cases of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. However, mutations in genes known as TERC and TERT have been found in about 15 percent of all cases of familial pulmonary fibrosis and a smaller percentage of cases of sporadic idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The TERC and TERT genes provide instructions for making components of an enzyme called telomerase, which maintains structures at the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres. A decrease in telomerase function allows telomeres to become abnormally short as cells divide. The shortened telomeres likely trigger lung cells to stop dividing or to die prematurely. In people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, shorter telomeres are associated with more severe disease and a quicker decline in lung function. Additional research is needed to confirm how shortened telomeres contribute to the progressive scarring and lung damage characteristic of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Researchers have also examined environmental risk factors that could contribute to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. These factors include exposure to wood or metal dust, viral infections, certain medications, and cigarette smoking. Some research suggests that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may also be a risk factor for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; affected individuals may breathe in (aspirate) stomach contents, which over time could damage the lungs.
Treatment Of Fibrous Interstitial Pneumonia
The treatment you get depends on the type of ILD you have and its cause.
Corticosteroids. In some forms of interstitial lung disease, inflammation in your lungs causes damage and scarring. Corticosteroids cause your immune system’s activity to slow. This lessens the amount of inflammation in your lungs and the rest of your body.
Inhaled oxygen. If you have low oxygen levels because of interstitial lung disease, inhaled oxygen may help your symptoms. Regular use of oxygen might also protect your heart from damage caused by low oxygen levels.
Lung transplant. In advanced interstitial lung disease that has severely impaired you, you may need a lung transplant. Most people who have a lung transplant for interstitial lung disease make large gains in their quality of life and their ability to exercise.
Azathioprine (Imuran). This drug also slows down the immune system. It’s not shown to improve interstitial lung disease, but some studies suggest it might help.
N-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst). This potent antioxidant may slow the decline of lung function in some forms of interstitial lung disease. You’ll take it in combination with other treatments.
Other drugs are considered controversial for fibrous interstitial pneumonia treatment, including:
These medicines affect the way your immune system works. If your doctor thinks you need one, they’ll keep a close watch on you while you’re taking it. These medications can have serious side effects.
Fibrous interstitial pneumonia has an estimated prevalence of 13 to 20 per 100,000 people worldwide. About 100,000 people are affected in the United States, and 30,000 to 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Familial pulmonary fibrosis is less common than the sporadic form of the disease. Only a small percentage of cases of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis appear to run in families.