Diffuse interstitial lung disease : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

Shortness of breath is a key symptom of interstitial lung disease. People may breathe faster or need to take deep breaths.

  • At first, shortness of breath is not severe and you may only notice it with exercise, climbing stairs, and other hard activities.
  • Over time, you may notice it while bathing or dressing, and then while eating or talking.

Most people with this condition also have a dry cough. A dry cough means you do not cough up any mucus or sputum.

Over time, weight loss, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue are also present.

People with advanced ILD may have:

  • Abnormal enlargement of the base of the fingernails (clubbing)
  • Blue color of the lips, skin, or fingernails due to low blood oxygen levels (cyanosis)

Diagnosis & Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. Dry, crackling breath sounds may be heard when listening to the chest with a stethoscope. The health care provider may notice nasal flaring.

The following tests may be done:

  • Blood tests to check for connective tissue diseases
  • Bronchoscopy with biopsy
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Lung biopsy
  • Measurement of the blood oxygen level at rest or during exertion
  • Pulmonary function tests


Review Date : 1/22/2010
Reviewed By : Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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