Interstitial lung disease can lead to a series of life-threatening complications, including:

  • Acute exacerbation. Acute exacerbation is a rapid worsening of respiratory function, increased lung infiltrates seen on x-Rays and shortness of breath that are not caused by other definable processes such as congestive heart failure, blood clots in the lung or infection. Acute exacerbation can occur unexpectedly and often requires hospitalization with supportive management. It is a serious complication found in many types of interstitial lung disease.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Recent studies suggest that GERD is associated with a more rapid progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a specific form of interstitial lung disease. Patients with this disease and symptoms concerning for GERD are often treated with anti-acid medications.
  • High blood pressures in the vessels of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension. Unlike systemic high blood pressure, this condition affects only the arteries in your lungs. It begins when scar tissue or low oxygen levels restrict the smallest blood vessels, limiting blood flow through the lungs. This in turn raises pressure within the pulmonary arteries. Pulmonary hypertension is a serious illness that becomes progressively worse, leading to failure or dysfunction of the right side of the heart (cor pulmonale).
  • Low oxygen (hypoxemia). As lung disease progresses, oxygen support may be required both at rest and with exertion.
  • Respiratory failure. In the end stage of chronic interstitial lung disease, respiratory failure occurs when severely low blood oxygen levels along with rising pressures in the pulmonary arteries and the right ventricle cause heart failure.
June 11, 2015