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When To Visit A Doctor For Interstitial Lung Disease And What To Expect?

Interstitial lung disease: If the physician had a chest X-ray done as part of initial evaluation, patients are advised to bring that when they see a pulmonologist: Dr Pawan Agarwal, Pulmonologist.

When To Visit A Doctor For Interstitial Lung Disease And What To Expect?

ILD: Take note of the symptoms and when they start before visiting the doctor, mention experts

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is term used for group of disease marked by scarring of the lung and the air sacs in the lungs. When the scar forms, this tissue becomes stiff and thicker. This makes it harder for oxygen to pass through the walls of the air sac into the bloodstream. Once the lung tissue becomes scarred, the damage cannot be reversed.

The symptoms of ILD can be similar to that of other lung diseases. This includes shortness of breath, cough, shallow breathing, weight loss, fatigue and aching. When these symptoms persist, it is advisable to bring them to the attention of a general physician. He or she may refer you to a pulmonologist - a doctor who specializes in lung disorders.

Dr Parthasarathi Bhattacharyya, Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, IPCR, Kolkata gives us a list of questions that a patient should expect when they visit a doctor.


1. What are your symptoms and when did they start?

2. Does your work history include regular exposure to toxins and pollutants, such as asbestos, silica dust or grain dust?

3. Do you or did you smoke? If so, how much? If not, have you spent a lot of time around others who smoke?

4. Are you receiving treatment for any other medical conditions?

5. Do any members of your family have a chronic lung disease of any kind?

6. Have you ever received chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer?

"Testing generally includes a variety of blood tests, X-ray and CT scan of the chest and pulmonary function testing. Blood tests: There are certain blood tests that can detect proteins, antibodies and other markers of autoimmune diseases or inflammatory responses to environmental exposures, such as those caused by molds or bird protein" Dr PS Bhattacharya concludes.

Testing generally includes a variety of blood tests, X-ray and CT scan of the chest and pulmonary function testing.
Dr Parthasarathi Bhattacharyya
Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, IPCR, Kolkata

Dr Pawan Agarwal, Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, B M Birla Hospital, Kolkata says "If the physician had a chest X-ray done as part of initial evaluation, patients are advised to bring that when they see a pulmonologist. It will help the pulmonologist make a diagnosis if he or she can compare an old chest X-ray with the results of a current X-ray. Also remember, the actual X-ray image is more important to your doctor than is the report alone."

"X-rays usually are not definitive and hence require a CT (Computerized tomography) scan. This imaging test is the key to the diagnosis of ILD. CT scanners use a computer to combine images taken from many different angles to produce cross-sectional images of internal structures. A high-resolution CT scan determines the extent of lung damage caused by ILD. It can show details of the fibrosis, which is helpful in narrowing down the diagnosis and in guiding treatment decisions." Dr Pawan Agarwal concludes.

If the physician had a chest X-ray done as part of initial evaluation, patients are advised to bring that when they see a pulmonologist.
Dr Pawan Agarwal
Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, B M Birla Hospital, Kolkata

Dr Suresh Koolwal, Senior Professor and Unit Head, Pulmonology, SMS Medical College says "When they visit the doctor, patients may also be given tests that examine how much air lungs can hold and how fast the patient breathe out. This is called pulmonary function test. This test requires you to exhale quickly and forcefully through a tube connected to a machine that measures how much air your lungs can hold, and how quickly you can move air out of your lungs. It also measures how easily oxygen can move from the lungs into the bloodstream. Patients may also be asked to exercise to see how your body responds to an increased demand for air."

"In some cases of ILD, a definitive diagnosis cannot be affirmed. In such patients, surgical lung biopsy is needed to get enough lung tissue to make a specific diagnosis. This allows the surgeon to biopsy multiple areas of one lung through a few very small incisions" Dr. Suresh Koolwal concludes.

When they visit the doctor, patients may also be given tests that examine how much air lungs can hold and how fast the patient breathe out. This is called pulmonary function test.
Dr Suresh Koolwal
Senior Professor and Unit Head, Pulmonology, SMS Medical College


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In recent years, increased awareness has led more doctors to consider interstitial lung diseases as a potential cause for breathing troubles and that awareness is crucial to unlock better life.

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