What Is
Interstitial
Lung Disease (ILD)?

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If you’re wondering if you or a loved one could have ILD—or if there has been a recent diagnosis—you’ve come to the right place. On this page, we’ll help you understand ILD, its connection to pulmonary fibrosis, its symptoms, and more.

Interstitial Lung Disease
Overview

ILD can be a serious lung disease that is caused by many different factors, including autoimmune diseases, exposure to harmful substances like asbestos or silica dust, and medications, as well as many unknown factors. It leads to common symptoms, like a dry cough and shortness of breath. ILD may also cause serious damage to the lungs including:

Scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis)

In some cases, ILD causes scarring of the lungs, which is commonly called pulmonary fibrosis. The scarring takes place in the interstitial tissue, which is the tissue around the lungs' alveoli sacs where oxygen passes into the bloodstream.

This scarring causes the lungs to become thick and stiff, making it difficult to breathe. Sometimes, the scarring is irreversible and progressive, which means it continues to get worse over time. You may hear this referred to as having a chronic ILD with worsening fibrosis.

i
Helpful hint

You may be more familiar with pulmonary fibrosis than ILD because some medical specialists use the term pulmonary fibrosis when describing ILD that causes lung scarring.

Inflammation of the lungs

ILD causes inflammation of the lungs. This happens when something causes the body's immune cells to accumulate in the lungs' interstitial tissue.

ILD can lead to primarily scarring or inflammation of the lungs, or have a mixed degree of both at the same time.

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4 Quick Facts About
Interstitial Lung Disease

1
ILD can be caused by many conditions

ILD can be caused by many known factors, like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and sarcoidosis, as well as many unknown factors.

2
ILD can lead to pulmonary fibrosis that may continue to get worse over time

ILD may cause pulmonary fibrosis, which means scarring of the lungs. Sometimes, this scarring progresses.

3
ILD lung scarring may be irreversible

In some cases, the scarring damage caused by ILD is permanent.

4
ILD is deceptive

ILD shares symptoms with more common conditions, meaning it’s easily misdiagnosed.

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Interstitial Lung Disease
Symptoms

Shortness of breath

Feeling breathless during activity or even at rest.

Persistent, dry cough

A cough that doesn’t produce phlegm and won’t go away.

Fatigue

Feeling tired—even after light activity.

Unexplained weight loss

Weight loss that can’t be attributed to diet or exercise.

Clubbing or widening of the fingertips

Fingertips widen—making them appear rounder than usual.

Clubbing or Widening of the Fingertips, ILD Symptoms
Crackling breath sounds

Lungs may make a Velcro-like tearing sound when heard through a stethoscope.

Muscle and joint pain

Over time, muscles and joints may become sore.

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Ready to visit a doctor? Use our locator tool to find a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung disorders, in your area
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What Causes
Interstitial Lung Disease?

Many different factors can lead to ILD, including autoimmune diseases, exposure to harmful substances like asbestos or silica dust, and medications, as well as many unknown factors. Read the list below to learn more about the causes of ILD.

Take the next step by learning how to get diagnosed with ILD.
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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1-844-473-2638

1-844-473-2638

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