(See also Overview of Interstitial Lung Diseases.)
The word idiopathic means of unknown cause, so when the cause of interstitial lung disease is not identified, idiopathic interstitial pneumonia is diagnosed. Pneumonias are often thought of as infections, but these diseases do not appear to result from infection.
There are eight types of idiopathic interstitial pneumonias. In decreasing order of frequency, they are
All types cause cough and shortness of breath and affect the lungs similarly. The ends of the fingers may become thick or club-shaped (see figure Recognizing Finger Clubbing). Through a stethoscope, doctors often hear crackling sounds. Although symptoms may be similar, disorders differ in how quickly symptoms develop, how they are treated, and how serious they are.
Comparing Types Of Idiopathic Interstitial Pneumonias*
Chest x-rays are done. Computed tomography (CT) of the chest is also done. CT may allow doctors to make a diagnosis. If not, doctors remove a small sample of lung tissue for examination under a microscope (lung biopsy). Usually, biopsy is done surgically with use of a thoracoscope.
Smoking cessation is always recommended because smoking is likely to make the disorder progress more rapidly.
Other treatments depend on the type of idiopathic interstitial pneumonia but may include corticosteroids or other drugs, such as novel antifibrotic drugs.
In some people, lung transplantation is done.