Short of Breath? It Could Be Interstitial Lung Disease

It is estimated that about 250,000 Americans are living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and scleroderma associated ILD, two types of interstitial lung disease (ILD) that can make breathing difficult. During September, which is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month, the American Lung Association, with support from Boehringer Ingelheim, is providing support and resources to those impacted by ILD.

As part of the educational campaign, they are sharing these important facts and insights: What is ILD? Interstitial lung disease is an umbrella term used for a large group of diseases that cause scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. The scarring causes stiffness that makes it difficult to breathe and get oxygen to the bloodstream. Lung damage from ILDs is often irreversible and gets worse over time, however treatment is available to help relieve symptoms. Who is at risk? While anyone can get interstitial lung disease, many things can increase the risk of ILD or even cause it, including genetics and certain medications or medical treatments, like radiation or chemotherapy.

Smoking can not only cause ILDs, but can make the condition much worse, which is why anyone diagnosed is strongly encouraged to quit. Additionally, people with autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma — also called systemic sclerosis — are at an increased risk of developing an ILD. Unfortunately, in the case of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the cause is unknown. What are the symptoms of ILD? 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.

How is ILD diagnosed? Healthcare providers test for ILD through a chest X-ray or CT scan. A lung function test may be used to measure total lung capacity, which may have deteriorated due to the ILD. In more serious cases, and to diagnose a specific type of ILD, more invasive procedures may be needed, such as a lung biopsy or bronchoscopy, which employs a small camera located at the end of a flexible tube that takes photos and collects tissue samples of the air passages. How can ILD be managed? It is recommended that patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis stay active and eat well.

They may also be encouraged to use oxygen therapy as prescribed to help manage their condition. In some cases, the condition can be slowed by certain medications, and occasionally, people with IPF will be recommended for lung transplant. Where can patients find support? Two new educational webcasts — “Newly Diagnosed with ILD” and “Living with ILD” — will provide education, resources and support to patients and their loved ones. Both webcasts will feature a healthcare provider and patient, and will be made available on-demand after the live showing.

Critical resources can also be found through the American Lung Association’s Patient & Caregiver Network, a nationwide patient-centric community that connects people living with lung diseases like ILD with critical support, education and access to emerging research like clinical trials. Join for free at To learn more, call the Lung HelpLine at 800-LUNGUSA or visit Understanding ILD and getting support is critical in helping patients breathe easier. Not only is diagnosis essential to disease treatment and management, connecting with others walking in the same shoes can be an invaluable source of support and practical help.

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) ljubaphoto / Getty Images


Ann Marie Moore obituary 1944-2023

Ann is a lifelong member of St. John Lutheran Church in Fairfield, and a member and past president of AORN (Association of periOperative Registered Nurses).

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