Interstitial Lung Disease

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If you have rheumatoid arthritis or you've had long-term exposure to certain hazardous materials, like asbestos, you may experience some problems with breathing. These problems could be caused by interstitial lung disease (ILD).

A large group of lung diseases, ILD leads to scarring in your lungs (sometimes called pulmonary fibrosis). The scarring replaces normal lung tissue, damaging how the lungs work and making it harder to get needed oxygen.

What Causes ILD?

In many cases, like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis, the cause of your ILD isn't known.

Some types of ILD, like rheumatoid arthritis, happen when your immune system overreacts to your own body and damages your lungs. Exposure to mold, birds, toxic materials or some medicines and treatments can also lead to ILD.


Interstitial Lung Disease

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) damages and scars your lungs, causing common breathing issues. View ILD transcript.

ILD Research & Expertise

Our providers are experts in recognizing the signs of ILD and determining what kind of ILD you may have. We also actively research all forms of ILD, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), immune system–related ILD and sarcoidosis.

The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has recognized UVA as part of its Care Center Network. Also, the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research Center and World Association for Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders lists our program as a recognized sarcoidosis clinic.

Symptoms of ILD

The most common symptom of ILD is shortness of breath that worsens over time. These breathing problems happen with activity and at rest.

ILD may also cause:

  • Persistent, dry cough that can’t be controlled
  • Fatigue
  • Clubbing — nails that bulge or thicken

Managing ILD

Medications and treatment plans depend on the type of ILD you have. Treating your ILD may include:

  • Medication to control immune system reactions (for ILD related to the immune system, like rheumatoid arthritis or sarcoidosis)
  • Anti-fibrotic medications (to slow down the progression of fibrosis)
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Support groups and patient advocacy
  • Access to clinical trials and research studies, if desired
  • Lung transplant, if needed