Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is a general term that includes a variety of chronic lung disorders. When a person has ILD, the lung is affected in three ways. First, the lung tissue is damaged in some known or unknown way. Second, the walls of the air sacs in the lung become inflamed. Finally, scarring (or fibrosis) begins in the interstitium (or tissue between the air sacs), and the lung becomes stiff.
Breathlessness during exercise can be one of the first symptoms of these diseases. A dry cough also may be present. These are common symptoms that many people ignore. Someone with these symptoms may wait until they feel quite ill before going to the doctor.
People with different types of ILD may have the same kind of symptoms but their symptoms may vary in severity. Their chest X-rays may look alike. Further testing is usually recommended to identify the specific type of ILD a person has. Some ILDs have known causes and some (idiopathic) have unknown causes.