Lung Disease (ILD) Diagnosis


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 to take an active role in the diagnostic process, and information about the tests used to reach a diagnosis.


Importance of Early

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 everyday activities feel challenging.

The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made, the earlier you and your doctor can evaluate your management options.

Find a pulmonologist
Ready to visit a doctor? Use our locator tool to find a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung disorders, in your area

How to take an active role in the diagnostic process

Get informed

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.

Taking an Active Role in ILD Diagnostic Process
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.

Push 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 doctor about ILD.

Connie R. Diagnosed with IPF, a type of ILD

I think there are people out there who have this disease and don’t know it … And if I ran across anyone who sounded like me, had the same symptoms or similar symptoms, I would certainly encourage them to ask their doctor about the disease. I think it’s really important that people get diagnosed and find out about management options for their disease.”

Connie R., Diagnosed
with IPF, a common
type of ILD, in 2015
Ready to take a more active role in your care?
Learn about your options for managing chronic ILD
with worsening fibrosis.

Finding a

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.

What is a pulmonologist?

A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in lung disorders—meaning 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 and manage lung issues, like ILD.

What to look for in a pulmonologist

When searching for a pulmonologist, find someone with whom you feel comfortable speaking honestly. The more open you are, the better chance you and your doctor will have at reaching an accurate diagnosis sooner.

There are also medical centers that specialize in lung diseases and are likely to have teams of pulmonologists with the expertise necessary to diagnose ILD.


Test Used to Diagnose
Interstitial Lung Disease

It can be helpful and reassuring to know what to expect during your doctor’s appointment. Here are some tests your pulmonologist may use to diagnose ILD.

Computarized Tomography
(HRCT) Scan of the Lungs
Offers a detailed lung image to help your physician identify scar tissue, diagnose, or rule out ILD.
Lung Functions Tests
Measures breathing while you inhale and exhale out of a tube.
Blood test for autoimmune diseases
Because ILD can be caused by autoimmune diseases, your doctor may perform a blood test to check for signs of an undiagnosed autoimmune disease.
Bronchoscopy with
Broncho-alveolar Lavage
Your doctor may use a thin, flexible tube with a small camera attached to the end to examine the airways in the lungs and collect cells from the lungs to be examined.
Chest X-ray or chest MRI
Provides an image of the structures in your chest, including your lungs. May be used to check for scar tissue.
Exercise Test
One type of exercise test is the “6-minute walk test” ; during this exercise test, your doctor will have you walk to determine how well your heart and lungs function during physical activity.
Pulse Oximetry
Involves the use of a small sensor placed on your fingertip or earlobe. It uses light to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.
Surgical Lung Biopsy
If necessary, during a lung biopsy, your doctor will take samples of lung tissue and then examine them under a microscope to help rule out other diseases or diagnose ILD.
Arterial Blood Gas
If necessary, your doctor will perform a blood test that measures the amount of oxygen and other gases present in the blood.
Uses a handheld wand to capture high-frequency sound waves that show the heart’s movement.
What's the next step?
Learn about your options for managing chronic ILD with worsening fibrosis.
You’re not alone in this—
we’re just a phone call away.

Learning about ILD can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Call Lungs&You® to speak with a dedicated nurse who can help you understand what you’re going through.

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