The lungs possess a characteristic property called 'compliance', which facilitates their expansion and contraction. The state in which the ability of compliance is lost is known as restrictive lung disease. In case of people affected by this condition, the lungs may become stiff and are not able to expand properly. Stiffness of the chest wall, weak muscles, or damaged nerves could be responsible for the inability of the lungs to expand fully. The intrinsic or underlying cause of this condition is pulmonary fibrosis, which in turn is a medical condition that is characterized by the scarring of the lungs. The scars spread throughout the tissues and finally are converted into a fibrotic mass. As the tissues become fibrotic, their elasticity is lost. With the increased stiffness in the tissues, the lung function gets adversely affected. This decreases their ability to release oxygen in the bloodstream. Other medical conditions that could contribute to this lung condition include sarcoidosis, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, scoliosis, or neuromuscular diseases.
The main symptoms of this condition are cough and shortness of breath (SOB). SOB is also termed as dyspnea. The patient affected by SOB, experiences unpleasant sensations in the respiratory tract.
Checking the FEV1/FVC ratio is one of the major diagnostic procedures. FEV1 is defined as the amount of air that a person's lungs can blow out in one second, whereas FVC is the value that indicates the total air a person's lungs can blow after full respiration. These ratios are higher in people affected by this medical condition. The total capacity and residual volume is also checked. The patient diagnosed with this disorder shows a general decline in the normal values of residual volume and total volume. It is necessary for the total capacity to be less than 80% of its normal value in order to confirm the disorder in the patient. Besides pulmonary function testing, diagnostic procedures such as chest X-rays, CT scan, pulse oximetry, or bronchoscopy might be conducted.
Exposure to asbestos, which leads to asbestosis, is one of the major reasons behind this fatal ailment. The exposure not only causes the restrictive disorder, but is also responsible for the development of different types of cancers in the respiratory tract. Rheumatoid arthritis is another contributing factor behind fibrosis, which in turn might lead to this lung disease. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is another problem which may lead to the development of fibrosis. It is an ailment that causes inflammation of alveoli in the bronchi. The inflammation in this ailment is caused because of the patient's hypersensitivity to organic dust. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which is characterized by the inflammation of the parenchyma tissues, may lead to restrictive lung disease.
The treatment options that might be suggested might vary, depending on the underlying cause. Not many drugs are available for treating the underlying cause of this condition. Attempts were made to treat patients with colchicine, but it didn't prove fruitful. Moreover, there is a great possibility of a wrong diagnosis, as the disorder is not well understood. The treatment might involve the use of immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, or azathioprine. Supplemental oxygen therapy or mechanical breathing assistance is recommended in case of patients affected by shortness of breath or breathing problems.
Since obesity could be a contributing factor in some cases, it would be best to follow an exercise regimen to keep one's weight under control. Moreover, exercising regularly can also prove beneficial in case of people affected by shortness of breath. Smoking is one of the major contributing factors of lung diseases, which is why it would be best to make the right lifestyle choices. After all, prevention is always better than cure.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.