Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The lung scarring that occurs in interstitial lung disease can't be reversed, and no current treatment has proved effective in stopping the ultimate progression of the disease. Some treatments, though, may improve symptoms temporarily or slow the disease's progress. Others help improve quality of life.

Medications

Many people diagnosed with interstitial lung diseases are initially treated with a corticosteroid (prednisone), sometimes in combination with other drugs that suppress the immune system — such as methotrexate or cyclosporine. None of these combinations has proved very effective over the long run.

Oxygen therapy

Using oxygen can't stop lung damage, but it can:

  • Make breathing and exercise easier
  • Prevent or lessen complications from low blood oxygen levels
  • Reduce blood pressure in the right side of your heart
  • Improve your sleep and sense of well-being

You're most likely to receive oxygen when you sleep or exercise, although some people may use it round-the-clock.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

The aim of pulmonary rehabilitation is not only to improve daily functioning, but also to help people with intersitial lung disease live full, satisfying lives. To that end, pulmonary rehabilitation programs focus on:

  • Physical exercise, to improve your endurance
  • Breathing techniques that improve lung efficiency
  • Emotional support
  • Nutritional counseling

Surgery

Lung transplantation may be an option of last resort for younger people with severe interstitial lung disease who haven't benefited from other treatment options.

Jul. 09, 2011