Cardiopulmonary DiseaseTo determine if infection is the cause of the pneumonitis the physician may also need to perform:
- a bronchoscopy (a visual inspection of the inside of the lungs)
- a lung biopsy (examination of a tissue sample).
Treatment initially includes a course of antibiotics. If laboratory and other diagnostic tests show no proof of infection, then the diagnosis is likely lupus pneumonitis.
This non-infectious pneumonitis is treated with high doses of corticosteroids. Immunosuppressive drugs such as Imuran (azathioprine) may be added if the inflammation is not controlled with corticosteroids.
Chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease
Chronic diffuse (widespread) interstitial lung disease is relatively uncommon in people with SLE. Chronic interstitial lung disease scars the lung. This scarred tissue acts as a barrier to the oxygen that normally moves easily from the lung into the blood.
Besides lupus, there are other reasons for this condition. Correct identification of the cause is necessary in order to chose the proper treatment.
Symptoms of chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease
- gradual onset of a chronic, dry cough
- pleuritic-like chest pains
- difficulty breathing during physical activity.
Diagnosing chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease
To determine the cause, special procedures are required, such as:
- bronchoalveolar lavage
- lung biopsy.
Treating chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease
Chronic lupus interstitial lung disease is primarily treated with corticosteroids, with varying results. In general, the lung function can be stabilized with treatment.
The progression of chronic interstitial lung disease can be measured with several tests that assess disease activity and the person's response to therapy. These include:
- the pulmonary function test to assess the ability of the lungs to receive, hold, and use air
- the oxygen saturation test to measure how readily oxygen moves through the lung and into the blood stream; oxygen saturation is usually reduced in chronic interstitial lung disease
- high-resolution CT scans to look at the lung and chest structures.