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Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a group of lung diseases affecting the interstitium of the lungs. Interstitium is the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lungs. Interstitium is the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lungs. The interstitium is a lace-like network of tissue that extends throughout both lungs.


ILD usually occurs when an injury to the lungs triggers an abnormal healing response. Ordinarily, the body generates just the right amount of tissue to repair damage. But in interstitial lung disease, the repair does not take place properly and the body generates more tissue than needed. This results in thickening and scarring of the tissue around the alveoli. Eventually it becomes difficult for oxygen to pass into the bloodstream. 


Interstitial lung disease can be caused by long-term exposure to hazardous materials, such as asbestos. Some types of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, also can cause interstitial lung disease. In some cases, however, the causes remain unknown.


Symptoms of ILD include shortness of breath at rest or aggravated by exertion and dry cough.

Interstitial lung disease can be triggered by many different things — including airborne toxins in the workplace, drugs and some types of medical treatments such as chemotherapy drugs, heart medications, anti-biotics and anti-inflamatory drugs. Long term exposure to toxins such as smoke, silica dust, asbestos fibers, grain dust, bird and animal droppings, radiation treatments and indoor environment can put people at risk of ILD.


ILD is a progressive disease with no known cure. The current treatment regime, therefore, focuses on helping the patient manage and adjust with the disease.