Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The lung scarring that occurs in interstitial lung disease is often irreversible, and treatment will not always be effective in stopping the ultimate progression of the disease. Some treatments may improve symptoms temporarily or slow disease progress. Others help improve quality of life. Because many of the different types of scarring disorders have no approved or proven therapies, clinical studies may be an option to receive an experimental treatment.


Depending on the underlying cause of interstitial lung disease, treatments fall into two categories: anti-inflammatories or anti-fibrotics. Interstitial lung disease that has a known inflammatory or autoimmune process may benefit from initial anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressing medications. If there is a known exposure, avoiding the inciting agent is a first step to treatment. Specifically for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, there are two medications now available for slowing the scarring process. Your doctor may work with other doctors, such as a rheumatologist or cardiologist, to optimize your care.

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.


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

June 11, 2015