Interstitial Lung Disease
We know that getting diagnosed with ILD can be a long and sometimes challenging experience, but arming yourself with information about the diagnostic process may help. Continue reading below to learn about the importance of early diagnosis, how ILD may progress over time, how to take an active role in the diagnostic process, and information about the tests used to reach a diagnosis.
Why Does Early Diagnosis Matter?
Catching ILD early is important because:
ILD may cause scarring of the lungs (commonly called pulmonary fibrosis) that progresses, which means it continues to get worse over time. You may hear this referred to as having a chronic ILD with worsening fibrosis.
As ILD progresses, the scarring of the lungs becomes worse and breathing becomes harder.
Over time, this may make even the simplest everyday activities, like walking or eating, feel challenging.
The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made, the earlier you and your healthcare provider can evaluate your management options.
How to take an active role
in the diagnostic
Because ILD isn’t widely known, it can be easy to confuse the warning signs with other diseases. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself about the disease so you can recognize early indications of ILD and talk to your healthcare provider.
Don’t brush off symptoms
The symptoms of ILD—like shortness of breath, a dry hacking cough, and fatigue—are common, which means people often brush them off or think that they are signs of aging. Don’t underestimate these common symptoms—they could be signs of something serious, like ILD.
Continue looking for the right diagnosis
The common symptoms also make it easy for ILD to be misdiagnosed as other conditions, like COPD, asthma, and congestive heart failure. If you’ve been diagnosed with these conditions and have symptoms that won’t get better, it’s time to ask your healthcare provider about ILD.
Learn if your symptoms could be a sign of ILD or something else.
Finding a Specialist
ILD is relatively rare and not widely known, which is why it's important to find a specialist if you think you could have ILD. Pulmonologists commonly diagnose and manage the disease.
A pulmonologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in lung disorders—meaning some pulmonologists may have more experience diagnosing and managing ILD than other types of specialists.
If you already have a team of specialists, a pulmonologist can work together with your healthcare team to provide expertise on how to diagnose lung issues, like ILD. For example, some rheumatologists will help people with an autoimmune disease diagnose and understand their ILD in collaboration with a pulmonologist. If you are already seeing a rheumatologist, talk to him or her about ILD.
When searching for a pulmonologist, try to find someone who has experience with ILD. There are medical centers that specialize in lung diseases and are likely to have teams of pulmonologists with the expertise necessary to diagnose ILD.
Get help starting the conversation with your pulmonologist
Tests Used to Diagnose
Interstitial Lung Disease
It can be helpful and reassuring to know what to expect during your healthcare provider’s appointment. Here are some tests your pulmonologist may use to diagnose ILD.