Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is an umbrella term used for a large group of diseases that cause scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. The scarring causes stiffness in the lungs which makes it difficult to breathe and get oxygen to the bloodstream. Lung damage from ILDs is often irreversible and gets worse over time.

Anyone can get interstitial lung disease, including children. Many things can increase the risk of or cause ILDs including genetics, certain medications, or medical treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy. Exposure to hazardous materials has been linked to ILDs such as asbestosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. People with autoimmune diseases such as sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis are also at increased risk of developing an ILD. Smoking can not only cause ILDs but can make the condition much worse, which is why anyone diagnosed is strongly encouraged to quit. Unfortunately, in many cases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the causes may be unknown.

The most common symptom of all ILDs is shortness of breath. This is often accompanied by a dry cough, chest discomfort, fatigue, and occasionally weight loss. In most cases, by the time the symptoms appear lung damage has already been done so it is important to see your doctor immediately. Severe cases that are left untreated can develop life-threatening complications including high blood pressure, and heart or respiratory failure.