Interstitial Lung Disease: Care Instructions

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Location of lungs in chest, with inside view of lung and detail of alveoli (air sacs) at ends of airways.

Your Care Instructions

Interstitial lung disease is a long-term (chronic) lung disease. It happens because of damage between the air sacs in the lung. The damage scars the lung and causes breathing problems.

People with interstitial lung disease get breathless during exercise and may have a dry cough. These problems may get worse slowly or very quickly.

Interstitial lung disease can be caused by breathing in dust from asbestos and silica. It also can be caused by infections and some medicines. Sometimes doctors cannot find the cause.

You may get medicine to treat the problem. Corticosteroids can sometimes reduce the swelling of lung tissue and prevent more damage. Oxygen treatment may help your condition.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking makes interstitial lung disease worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Get flu and pneumococcal shots. Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines help prevent lung infection.
  • Make an exercise plan with help from your doctor or other health professional. Exercise can help you breathe more easily.
  • Think about joining a support group. This can help you cope with problems caused by interstitial lung disease.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your shortness of breath gets worse.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have chest pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.