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Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial lung disease is a group of lung disorders in which lung tissue becomes inflamed and damaged. In people with interstitial lung disease, tissue between the air sacs in the lungs becomes stiff or scarred, and the air sacs are not able to expand completely. As a result, not as much oxygen can get to the body.

ILD can occur without a known cause. There are also dozens of known causes, including:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, and scleroderma
  • Lung inflammation due to breathing in a foreign substance such as certain types of dust, fungus, or mold
  • Medicines (such as nitrofurantoin, sulfonamides, bleomycin, amiodarone, methotrexate, gold, infliximab, and etanercept)
  • Radiation treatment to the chest
  • Working with or around asbestos, coal dust, cotton dust, and silica dust

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of interstitial lung disease include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pain


A Deborah Heart and Lung Center physician will perform a physical exam. Dry, crackling breath sounds may be heard when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.

The physician may order any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests to check for autoimmune diseases
  • Bronchoscopy with or without biopsy
  • Chest x-ray
  • High resolution CT scan of the chest
  • MRI
  • Echocardiogram
  • Lung biopsy
  • Measurement of the blood oxygen level at rest or when active
  • Blood gases
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Six-minute walk test