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What Is Restrictive Lung Disease?

An image of the respiratory system, including the lungs.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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Restrictive lung disease is a term given to a group of respiratory problems which decrease lung volume, making it difficult to inhale enough oxygen to properly nourish the various cells, tissues, and organs of the body. There are two basic types of restrictive lung disease, known as interstitial lung disease and extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease. There is no specific treatment protocol for this type of lung disease, as there can be a variety of contributing factors, each of which need to be diagnosed and treated on an individual basis. Specific symptoms are often treated with supplementary oxygen therapy, prescription medications, and the use of relaxation techniques.

Interstitial lung disease is one of the major types of restrictive lung disease. This type of disease affects the connective tissue and the protective covering of the lungs. The air sacs become damaged, causing a decrease in blood flow to the lungs. There are over 100 different lung diseases which fall into the category of interstitial lung disease. Some of the most common causes of this form of restrictive lung disease include certain drugs, radiation, and environmental pollutants.

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Treatment for interstitial lung disease depends upon the underlying cause, although some treatment options are common to many of the different forms of this disease. Supplemental oxygen is often needed in order to make sure that the body is able to get enough oxygen to support life and health. Prescription medications may be used to open up the airways or treat specific symptoms which may be present. Relaxation techniques can often promote deeper breathing, lessening the potential for severe complications.

Extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease is a classification for lung conditions which originate outside of the lungs while causing diminished lung capacity. Rapid, shallow breathing is often a component of this type of lung disease. Neurological diseases, certain birth defects, and medical conditions such as scoliosis often lead to the development of extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease.

Treatment for extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease is similar to that used in cases of interstitial lung disease. Gentle exercises designed to strengthen the chest muscles may work to improve lung capacity in patients who are healthy enough to exercise. The medical staff can also train the patient on proper coughing techniques which can be productive without causing additional distress. Many doctors recommend yearly flu vaccines for those with lung disease, and additional vaccines may be recommended to help prevent conditions such as pneumonia.

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