The term interstitial lung disease (ILD) refers to a broad range of progressive lung disorders characterized by inflammation and scarring of the lungs. Interstitial lung diseases affect the interstitium, the lace-like network of tissue between and supporting the microscopic alveoli (air sacs). The interstitium is filled with tiny blood vessels that allow for gas exchange between the blood and the lungs. It is so thin that it normally canâ€™t be seen with an X-ray or CT scan.
There are a large number of disorders classified as ILD; some are short-lived and others are chronic (ongoing) and irreversible. Some types are listed below:
Shortness of breath upon exertion and a dry, unproductive cough are the most common symptoms of ILD. Other symptoms that may help identify the disease include mucus production, hemoptysis (blood in the mucus) and wheezing. Patients with prominent, non-respiratory symptoms such as muscle pain, joint pain or thickening and tightness of the skin, fingers and toes may have interstitial lung disease caused by an underlying connective tissue disorder.
Treatment of ILD depends upon the severity of the illness and the underlying cause. It may include the following:
The goal of medication therapy is to improve breathlessness, reduce inflammation and suppress an over-active immune system. Common medications used to treat ILD are as follows:
Because many people with ILD have low levels of oxygen in their blood, oxygen therapy improves blood oxygen levels while reducing strain on the heart and lungs and improving breathlessness and fatigue.
A formal program designed to improve fitness in people with breathing problems. Includes exercise training, breathing techniques, nutritional counseling, education, support and more.5
May be an option for some patients with advanced disease when standard medical treatment has failed. May improve quality of life and increase survival in a select group of patients who meet very strict criteria.5
For more information on interstitial lung disease, talk to your primary care provider.
Â  WebMD. Interstitial Lung Disease. Medically reviewed 7/31/2016.
 Mayo Clinic. Interstitial Lung Disease. Updated 6/11/2015.
 Chapman, Jeffrey T. Interstitial Lung Disease. Cleveland Clinic. August, 2010.
 National Jewish Health. ILD Medications. Last reviewed December, 2014.
 National Jewish Health. ILD Treatment. Last reviewed December, 2014. Â