Restrictive lung diseases decrease your total lung capacity and limit the amount of air you can breathe in. It is a condition wherein your lungs become stiff, restricting them from fully inflating. You do not get as much fresh air as a healthy individual can. As a result, the amount of oxygen your body needs for normal functioning becomes insufficient. Since your blood oxygen levels are not up to the mark, you start to experience difficulties in your lifestyle and may suffer from other co-occurring illnesses.

Restrictive lung disease is recognised and classified by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) under other respiratory system diseases (code: J98.4).

Difference between Obstructive and Restrictive Lung Disease

In Obstructive Lung Disease, the air exhaled from your lungs becomes abnormally slow and inefficient. The lung volume increases in this condition, which makes it difficult for the alveoli to deflate and release the air completely. It occurs due to narrow airways, vastly decreasing the exhalation rate.

Broad types of Obstructive Lung Disease include:

  1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is characterised by inflammation in the lungs, blocking airflow
  2. Bronchiectasis is the irregular widening of the bronchi or their branches
  3. Cystic fibrosis is the filling of the lung with mucus
  4. Asthma is the narrowed and swollen airways leading to obstructive breathing
  5. Bronchiolitis is a viral condition

In Restrictive Lung Disease, it becomes difficult to breathe in the optimum amount of air. The lung volume decreases significantly, which makes it difficult for the alveoli to extend completely. These are classified based on the area affected in or around your lungs.

You may experience any of the four broad kinds of restrictive lung diseases:

  1. Pulmonary Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with the wellness and functioning of your lungs.
  2. Abdominal Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with the organs and tissues that make up your abdominal area, involving the diaphragm, the stomach, the liver, the blood vessels, etc.
  3. Neurological/Neuromuscular Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with neural processes and their effects on the movement of muscles.
  4. Thoracic Skeletal Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with the ribcage, breast, and other bony structures.

Causes of Restrictive Lung Disease

There are two types of Restrictive Lung Disease. These are categorized based on the area they affect: intrinsic (inside your lungs) or extrinsic (outside your lungs).

  1. Intrinsic Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with the internal structure and functioning of your lungs. It results from scarring and inflammation of your lung tissues, including the alveoli, capillaries, and interstitium. Abnormal growth of cells causing rash, connective tissue diseases, and exposure to drugs and toxins are other causes that lead to the development of intrinsic restrictive lung diseases.
  2. Extrinsic Restrictive Lung Disease is associated with the chest wall, pleura, respiratory muscles, and neuromuscular disorders. Dysfunction in these areas accounts for lung restraint and respiratory failure. Other health conditions such as a twisted spine, intermittent muscle weakness, fractures to the rib cage, fluid buildup between the layers of tissue surrounding the lungs, obesity, diaphragm paralysis, and hunching of the upper back lead to the development of extrinsic restrictive lung disease.

Symptoms of Restrictive Lung Disease

Restrictive lung disease has a few distinctive signs. If you are suffering from the disease, you may experience a variety of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or a feeling of suffocation
  • Wheezing: A high-pitched noise produced during breathing
  • Coughing: Constant clearing of the throat
  • Chest pain: Tightness, fullness, or pressure in your chest
  • Fatigue: Extreme tiredness and exhaustion without exertion
  • Depression: Co-occurring, may or may not be present
  • Anxiety: Co-occurring, may or may not be present

Diagnosis of Restrictive Lung Disease

  • Pulmonary Function Tests: A non-invasive technique to measure lung volumes, capacity, rates of exchange, and gas flow in the lungs. Spirometry in restrictive lung disease is one of the most commonly used techniques to assess your pulmonary function.
  • Chest X-rays, CT Scans, or High-Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT): Production of high-resolution lung images for detecting abnormalities in the structure of the lungs and the surrounding tissues and organs.
  • Pulse Oximetry: Used to measure blood oxygen levels, indicating your lungs’ efficiency.
  • Bronchoscopy: A flexible tube with a camera and tools on its tip to look inside the airways and is used to take samples from the lung tissue for further evaluation.

Treatment for Restrictive Lung Disease

The treatment for Restrictive Lung Disease depends on its type, symptoms, and severity. You need to visit an authorised practitioner and chart a treatment plan that suits you. Some of the most widely used treatments include:

  1. Inhalers, shots of corticosteroids, help control lung inflammation by relaxing your pathways.
  2. Immunosuppressants prevent your body from attacking its cells in cases of autoimmune connective tissue disorders.
  3. Antibiotics treat certain lung infections by reducing the mucus buildup in your lungs.
  4. Expectorants help clear out foreign dust particles and irritants from your air pathways.
  5. Oxygen therapy includes a tube attached to an oxygen tank worn to replenish the scarcity of oxygen in your body.
  6. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program designed for outpatients. You learn about your condition, situational safety measures, nutrition, breathing exercises, nutrition, and the resultant mental state of your disease.
  7. Chemotherapy is used to kill the affected cells that block your air passageway. 
  8. A lung transplant involves replacing your affected lung with a healthier lung so you lead a healthy life.
  9. Lifestyle changes include upper and lower limb strengthening and conditioning exercises, respiratory muscle strengthening exercises, level walking, relaxation or visualised meditation and quitting smoking.


Restrictive Lung Disease is usually a chronic condition. You will require lifetime support from your doctors and primary caregivers. Treating and managing Restrictive Lung Diseases are challenging as it often leads to other health conditions. Seeking timely and informed treatment is the best way to work and live with this condition. Keeping a tab on the changes in your state and tailoring the treatment plan according to your needs will lead to the best possible results in managing your disease. Book your Lungs Test with Metropolis.



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