Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is the term used to describe a diverse group of disorders found in the tissue between the air sacs of the lungs that lead to fibrosis, or scarring of the interstitium tissue. In interstitial lung disease, inflammation, scarring or fibrosis thickens the interstitium, making the lung thick and restricted from filling to their normal capacity and preventing oxygen from passing freely into the bloodstream .
ILD accounts for 15 percent of the cases seen by pulmonologists (lung specialists).
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, heart or respiratory failure.
There are many known causes of interstitial lung disease. These can include:
The evaluation begins with a physical exam, blood tests, a chest x-ray, a chest CT scan, and pulmonary function testing. If a diagnosis cannot be made using these tests, a lung biopsy is often necessary. Lung biopsies can be performed in two ways.
Lastly, exercise testing (such as a cardiopulmonary exercise test and a six-minute walking test) will be performed to help gauge the severity of disease.